Dr. David Anderson teaches the economics of the environment
Spring is a time when many Centre College students’ attention turns to their sunny, warm surroundings. And while for them, studying may seem at odds with enjoying springtime, for Paul G. Blazer Professor of Economics David Anderson, academics and nature dovetail seamlessly, particularly in his environmental economics class.
“Economic theory is a natural fit for environmental concerns,” Anderson explains, “because economics is the study of the allocation of scarce resources among competing ends. The stereotype is that economics is about money, and money is certainly scarce. But so are natural resources, and many of the most important decisions made by politicians, business leaders and families involve natural resources and the environment.”
The class applies the basics of economic theory to major environmental issues, including managing natural resources, resource depletion, sustainable development and optimal levels of biodiversity.
“We will use the tools of economics to identify weighty problems and find the most efficient solutions,” Anderson says. “Among other things, we’ll learn how economists determine the value of natural resources that aren’t sold in stores, such as endangered animals, clean air and national parks.”
Anderson says he enjoys teaching the class because it showcases how economic tools can reveal specific answers to critical questions about pollution, taxation and renewable energy.
The final project for the course requires students to research a chosen economic environmental controversy from both sides, presenting the two arguments and defending the one they agree with most.
Ultimately, students in the class will finish with more than just advanced knowledge of a specific application of economic principles—they will also hone their decision-making skills.
“I hope students will come out of this class with an appreciation for the need to objectively weigh all the costs and benefits of a contemplated action before deciding whether to take it,” Anderson explains. “Students who take this class are better prepared to avoid the enormous pitfalls that can result from decisions made on the basis of emotions or short-sighted greed.”
And though students will come away from the class with widely divergent ideas about how humankind should manage the environment in the future, Anderson hopes that each student develops an understanding of the growing importance of environmental issues in our economic and political future.
“After all,” he notes, “without a viable environment, there can be no economy.”
Learn more about economics at Centre.
By Mariel Smith