What are we going to study in natural resource economics?
Students new to economics or new to environmental studies may be unsure about how these topics come together.
Generally speaking, economists try to solve problems using a combination of theory, empirical analysis (data, statistics, math), and intuition. For example, macro economists try to address issues such as how to keep an economy growing without significant inflation. Micro economists might try to find the best way to maximize profit for a particular firm or industry. Natural resource economists try to solve problems associated with scarce natural resources.
Some examples from my work include:
How can we manage fisheries in a way that balances the competing needs of commercial and recreational fishers and maintains a biologically sustainable stock?
Tradeoffs between development and conservation... How much are scuba divers willing to pay for healthy coral reefs and marine turtles?
How to best manage wildlife populations? What hunting regulations would maximize the net gains to society from white tailed deer populations?
If we continue to use marine resources in unsustainable ways, will we lose potentially lifesaving medicines?
Obviously, these are complex issues that require interdisciplinary effort. One of the things that I really love about what I do is that I work side-by-side with biologists, policy makers and resource users to address these problems.
It should also be obvious is that these are potentially contentious issues. It is easy to get caught up in the emotion that surrounds any debate about environmental issues. Please remember that an economists job is to provide objective analysis (i.e. without personal opinion or bias). In short, our job is to search for the truth, or as close to it as we can get.
Below are links to an overview of environmental economics and two excellent essays that provide a nice perspective on the economic view of the environment. The second essay covers non-market valuation, which we will cover in detail later in the summer. It makes a good read now however, as it sets the stage for much of what we're covering at the beginning of the class (e.g. the economic view of value).
What is environmental economics? (The Economics Network at the University of Bristol)
Economic Values without Prices (Loomis, Choices, 2005)
What are your thoughts on economics and the environment? At the beginning of the course, do you see a role for economics in the environmental policy debate?