Tuesday, August 28, 2007

ECON 16200: Sharing Two Story

I started ECON 16200 Ekonomi Sumber Daya Alam dan Lingkungan (Environment and Natural Resource Economics) course today by informing students with reading list and suggested books related with this course. The other thing that I've been share with them today is two – supposed to be – interesting story on resources and environmental issue.

First, I distributed a two pages summary of Kenneth Boulding essay titled "The Economics of the Coming Spaceship Earth". I was quote them from Chapter 1 Box 1.1 "Natural Resource and Environmental Economics" book of Roger Perman et.al (see page 9). You may see the summary here. I believe Boulding discussion on sustainable economy in the year 1966 is becoming more relevant to see further for current and following years. Boulding initiated analysis about economic versus resource-constraint situation by contrasting two type of economy: "Cowboy economy" and "Spaceman economy". For me, the most interesting discussion from Boulding is that he already predict about today's global warming as follow:
The shadow of the future spaceship indeed is already falling over our spendthrift merriment. Oddly enough, it seems to be in pollution rather than exhaustion, that the problem Is first becoming salient. Los Angeles has run out of air, Lake Erie has become a cesspool, the oceans are getting full of lead and DDT, and the atmosphere may become man's major problem in another generation, at the rate at which we are filling it up with junk.
Does it sound like an influx-prophecy?

Secondly, I continued sharing the students with The Mystery of Easter Island. The island somehow told a story about the most extreme environmental destruction in the world and many researches indicate that it was man-made implications. Jared Diamond (2005)[*] said, "The overall picture of Easter is the most extreme example of forest destruction in the Pacific, and among the most extreme in the world: the whole forest gone, and all of its tree species extinct". The Easter Island case is one way to share concern for the future of humanity, especially using economic approach to answer several questions such as:
  • Will the environment be a constraint to human welfare?
  • What are the trade-offs: between people and nature; between the current and future generations?; and between poor and rich societies?, and finally
  • How can they be resolved?
I don't know whether the student excited or not with that two story. Hopefully, they will realize that our earth needs our attention with all knowledge that we have or gain. Since we are economist (wannabe), then obviously we should learn and use economics tools to answer the existing natural resource and environmental problems

[*] Diamond, Jared (2005). Collapse: How societies choose to fall or survive, London: Penguin Books, Ltd. p.107

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