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Charlotte Keesler

For Thursday's class, I think that it would be interesting to discuss elephants and the ivory trade, and perhaps model the situation. This is an interesting subject because the price that illegal hunters can obtain from the ivory is so high, that it is hard to incentivize them to not kill the elephants. There has been some controversy about which method to use to address this issue. Some policies that have been tried are giving property rights to elephants to neighboring villages and compensating villages for crop damage by elephants. Although this helped in countries in the south of Africa, elephant herds in countries such as Kenya have been completely decimated. This led to CITES banning the international trade of ivory in 1989. I would love to talk about the different impacts that this decision had, and whether or not other measures may have been more effective.

Nina Preston

I think it would be interesting this Thursday to discuss the economic consequences of biodiversity loss and extinction. Kahn recognizes that our current period of mass extinction is largely a result of anthropogenic factors; however, our efforts to preserve biodiversity do not equate to the losses we are experiencing biologically. Again, we face the choice of preservation or exploitation, and should discuss the potential genetic diversity and indirect use values that today's endangered organisms may provide in the future.

Zebrina Maloy

I would love to discuss how the Everglades has faced drastic changes and extreme deterioration in the past few centuries. Sugar production has played a significant role in the degradation of the Everglades after these wetlands were transformed into an agricultural region. This is an issue that I care a lot about, especially as a Floridian. Kahn touches upon this issue in Chapter 17, pointing out how the excess nutrients from sugar plantations and cattle ranching led to a degradation in water quality in the Everglades. In addition, many projects were initiated in the early and mid-twentieth century with the purpose of constructing an elaborate system of canals, road, levees and water control structures. One of these projects that drained a large portion of the Everglades includes the Central & South Florida Project (C & SF Project) which was initiated in the 1950s. This project was modified under the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). Although it may sound like it will be beneficial to the Everglades, it advocates pumping 1.7 billion gallons per day into the Everglades, which will more than likely cause damage to the native life there. There is also research that shows that CERP is an attempt to increase urban development and economic growth, rather than to enhance the wellbeing of the Everglades. There are a whole lot of factors that are at play in regards to the degradation of the Everglades that needs to be discussed.

Ram Raval

For Thursday's class, I believe it would be most interesting to study the different fee structures associated with timbering activities and examine the consequences that each structure has on deforestation. Although differentiated volume-based fees are undoubtedly the most environmentally sustainable, it would be interesting to explore area-based, uniform revenue-based, and undifferentiated volume-based approaches and see the varying feasibility of each method. In addition, it would be interesting to discuss whether or not differentiated volume-based fees are sufficient in implementing sustainable forestry and to examine the potential shortcomings of instituting this approach alone. It would also be interesting to discuss different lease systems and how political reform in regards to securing property rights can help sustainable use of forests. Finally, it would also be interesting to discuss command and control and economic incentive methods in order to encourage sustainable timbering techniques and to relate the potential harm to native populations caused by these methods to the study on Marine Protected Areas and their impact on local villages.

Jerry Qiu

I would like to look into the impact of lower gas prices associating with the cost/benefit analysis based on what we've learned recently. In February, the NY Times reported that India (as a gas importer) is paying lower gas prices. It would be interesting to see the cross-national relationship between economic growth and the greenhouse gas emissions of countries with different gas prices.

Xiaoxiang Yang

I remember in the paper "The Role of Incentives for Sustainable Implementation of Marine Protected Areas", the author mentions that people living in those marine protected areas have the choice to participate in either fishery or agriculture. As a result, I would really like to see the relationship between those two activities. Will the existence of one of them affect the environment for the other? And how do people actually make choices between those two activities?

Megan Axelrod

For Thursday I would like to discuss the Endangered Species Act and whether or not it has been successful. I am particularly interested in Panda conservation efforts and how a lot of separate groups are emotionally invested in their conservation and are willing to spend large amounts of money and time to preserve them. In Kahn Chapter 14 he discusses Captive Breeding Programs as well as the Endangered Species Act. He points out that it doesn't do enough to stop species loss prior to the species becoming endangered. My question is, is there any way to align incentives with the public to ensure protection of potentially endangered species before they become endangered?

Michael DeMatteis

For class on Thursday I think it would be interesting to discuss investments in clean energy technologies and how that is going to affect conservation. I wonder if the relatively new sector of investments in clean energy, is going to stray from the main idea of simply preserving the environment and limiting carbon emissions. This warrants more of a ethical and philosophical discussion but I think it would be a good topic. I believe that eventually the clean energy sector could lose sight of its original intentions due to the influence of increasing investments. It would also be interesting to look at how dropping oil prices are affecting investments in the clean energy field.

caroline hutchinson

For Thursday's class I think it would be really interesting to discuss the Keystone Pipeline. I think that this policy initiative falls under the marginal cost benefit analysis for the environment from an economic standpoint that we have been pursuing this semester. While the economic incentives are present, the environmental effects are not worth the risk. The State Department released a report that pointed to an increase in greenhouse gases associated with the development of the pipeline in addition to the huge potential risk associated with a pipeline leak (http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/state-to-release-keystones-final-environmental-impact-statement-friday/2014/01/31/3a9bb25c-8a83-11e3-a5bd-844629433ba3_story.html). This would have lasting detrimental effects on the biodiversity of the areas affected and would bolster the recent trend of increased climate change. There are also many ethical considerations associated with the Keystone Pipeline. Is there a way that we can access the targeted oil in a sustainable and environmentally respectful manner that allows for new jobs and economic incentives? Or are the environmental risks far too severe? I think an important thing to remember with this argument is W&L's motto "Non incautus futuri" (not unmindful of the future). Although this project would generate an extremely high number of jobs and revenue, the costs outweigh the benefits.
Another topic that I think would be interesting to discuss from Khan is the environmental effect of agriculture. In the reading he states that each unsustainably harvested acre of crop will lead to a decreased yield for the same acre in the future. Is there a way that technology can be used positively to decrease environmental degradation from such things as over harvesting, fertilizer overuse etc. instead of just increasing the market for these forms of agricultural abuse? I am particularly interested in the Ch. 17 section on agriculture and greenhouse gases. The emission of methane from mass harvesting animals for consumption is one of the leading causes of global warming. These animals are treated horribly, as if they were a crop not a living being and are farmed at an ever increasing rate. How can we slow this rate of production to decelerate global warming while making sure that economic incentives are not left unconsidered? Would a tax break have an effect on this huge industry? Or is the industry so consumed by government control that this end goal is impossible because they are only considering their interests and the benefit for them is much greater than the future costs?

Ale Paniagua

I would be interested in studying how invasive species can effect a community, whether it is monetary, regulations, of effects to the environment and how that impacts the community. For example the zebra mussel original to lakes in southeast Russia has become a very effective invasive species worldwide. In North America they are known for their colonisation power making them block pipelines, clogging water, intakes,a and covering almost everything. Zebra mussels are also responsible for the near extinction of many species in the Great Lakes by out-competing native species and by growing on top of native clams and mussels ad suffocating them. This is just one example but I am sore other invasive species have had effects on an a community.

HeeJu Jang

Since we talked mostly about temperate forests during the last class, I think we should devote more time on tropical forest on Thursday. As Professor Casey mentioned in class, the inhabitants of tropical forests are usually the world's poorest poor. When we over-harvest tropical forests, these are the people who bear most of the social cost. Kahn Chapter 13 gives a variety of policy options that could address/alleviate this unfair situation. I wish to talk more these potential solutions such as volum-based fee of harvesting, performance bond, and economic zoning. It is also important, I believe, that we discuss the limitation of each policy and how we could improve their efficiency.

Furthermore, I would like to talk about the potential effect of establishing well-defined property rights in protecting tropical forests. As Professor Casey already said, property rights alone cannot solve the problem of open access that many tropical forests have. Nevertheless, I believe that securing property rights is an imperative policy reform especially for the small scale farmers living in tropical forests. Kahn talks about how lack of property rights has induced many farmers to employ excessive slash and burn agriculture. Securing the rights to their own farmland will encourage locals to be involved in the campaign for protecting tropical forests.

Caitlin Kaloostian

For tomorrow’s class period, it would be interesting to converse about the economic value of ecosystems and subsequently how the loss of habitat, biodiversity, and ecosystem services limit anthropogenic prosperity. Society relies on ecosystems in order produce/consume goods and services. Without all vital ecosystems, I can't help but wonder what will become of our current way of life.

Katherine Hodges

For Thursday, I would like to talk about the relationship between forestry and biodiversity. This could be in terms of agroforestry, which is the dual use of land which has many costs and benefits.
In a different vein, how does certification in markets affect the forest industry? Is this is an extra cost incurred because the market is trying to limit harvesting to equate marginal private and marginal public costs?

Jeb Bland

Being from the gulf coast area, I would like to spend tomorrow's class examining the breadth of the economic impact caused by the BP oil spill. I know it devastated the gulf coast region's aquatic life which had a trickle down effect, affecting the restaurant business and others. Is there a total economic value that can be placed on that? What effect is the spill still affecting the gulf coast today?

Rachana Ghimire

I think it would be interesting to discuss the topic of exotic and invasive species on Thursday. Kahn discusses this topic in Chapter 14. In my “Ecology of Place” class last spring, I did my project over invasive species, and I do not think people are aware of how damaging they actually are. This is not just ecologically, but economically as well. Through my research, I found that the cost of invasive species is in the billions. This is mainly from the costs of trying to eradicate the invasive species, which is very costly and very difficult. The best way that I found to ensure a healthy ecosystem is to ensure that we have good preventative measures. After an invasive species finds itself in another habitat, most are prolific. They will embed themselves in the habitat very quickly, and it is almost near impossible to get rid of them. There have only been a handful of successful eradications. It’s also interesting how many invasive species are actually in the back campus of Washington and Lee University, including Japanese honey suckle and garlic mustard. However, I also think it’s important to draw a distinction between exotic and nonnative species and invasive species. Just because a species is nonnative does not mean that it is invasive. There have been successful attempts where a non-native species has embedded itself into the habitat, and it was not harmful to the ecosystem. I’m pretty sure the honey bee is an example of this. Though it is not native to the United States, it has been considered part of the United States for quite a while. It’s important that people understand this distinction. Invasive species actually harm the ecosystem that they are in whereas a non-native species would not necessarily harm the ecosystem. Furthermore, I think it would interesting to go more in depth about how the most biodiversity is usually found in the poorest countries. Kahn discusses the importance of biodiversity in chapter 14 and focuses on the costs on losing biodiversity. We’ve been taught that biodiversity is important, and we know that we should be preserving biodiversity. However, I feel that often times; biodiversity is just seen from a first-world perspective in a sense. The most diverse regions with an abundance of species are usually in countries that are not economically rich. They cannot necessarily bear the burden of preserving biodiversity. For example, I’m originally from Nepal, and Nepal has an abundance of natural resources, animals, beautiful landscapes, etc. etc. Though we do get tourists, I’m not sure if the revenue generated from tourism is enough. Furthermore, it is not fair who benefits from the tourists. People that are more business-minded get pretty much the full benefits from tourists, while the rest of the nation is still left poor and starving. There are so many people living in poverty, especially children. The government is not adequate to allocate resources effectively, so tourism is not enough to cover these costs. While preserving the natural landscapes is important, I’m not sure that it is being done in the correct ways when it comes to third world countries. I wish it didn’t have to be saving people vs. preserving the environment, and it would be nice to discuss possible solutions to these problems, and if any measures have been taken in other countries to address this issue. We cannot ask third world countries to bear the full cost of preserving the environment without providing enough incentive to do so.

Gabriella Kitch

For tomorrow's class period, I think it would be interesting to further discuss Chapter 17 on Agriculture and the Environment. After reading the chapter, I believe there are two main topics that need to be addressed or expanded upon. Although I believe Kahn outlined the majority of issues regarding agriculture, I believe he left out the large issue of transportation costs and the additional impact this has on the environment. Specifically I would like to address what the best way to mitigate these externalities, especially if these goods are being transported to developing countries in which case a tax on transportation would introduce equity issues. On the topic of equity, I would also like the section of Chapter 17 that discusses the the agriculture subsidy program in the United States vs an environmental subsidy program and specifically how such a program would affect supply and demand for various types of goods (normal, GMO, organic, and "green" produced plants).
In term of Chapter 14, I would like to discuss the role of environmental education plays in biodiversity. It seems like an overarching theme in the concluding section of Chapter 14 is that habitat and biodiversity protection can only be maintained through a set of command and control policies. However, Kahn mentions that "policies aimed at the supply side alone cannot be effective...campaigns that make it socially unacceptable to use animal products can eliminate the profitability of the illegal trade." It seems like this thought could be expanded to promote a societal shift of making it socially unacceptable to degrade the environment in general, making policies to protect habitats and biodiversity more effective. In my opinion, this can effectively be done through increased environmental education that heavily favors time spent outdoors, however I feel like it would be an interesting discussion to have through an economic perspective.

Tim Paulsen

In Chapter 14 the authors discuss how the Endangered Species Act doesn't protect animals that aren't already endangered. Have there been serious moves to change that, to a system wherein animals are protected before they ever become endangered? Further, I'm having a hard time seeing the point of the act, if Congress can override its recommendations, as was done in the case of the Snail Darter with the help of the Endangered Species Committee.


I would be really interested in talking about the consequences of fracking. Since the 2000 franking increased immensely in the U.S. and is highly discussed at the same time. In some countries in Europe franking is illegal, because of its bad environmental consequences.

Next to the discussion of franking I would be very much interested in getting to know different kinds of energy generation that are developed lately that try to be environment saving alternatives. It would be really interesting to know if there are alternatives to the familiar and well known use of wind, sun and water power.

Philip Anderson

I think it would be interesting to investigate some of the issues brought up in chapter 17 involving agriculture. As the chapter notes, agriculture seems like a "green" activity. But it is not necessarily. There are very many prominent negative externalities that agriculture causes. This includes soil erosion, fishery degradation as well as emissions of green house gases. It seems that there has to be some sort of tax or regulation in order to reduce the negative externality. But there are obviously equity issues involved with this. A farmer's livelihood is made through agriculture, and many farmers have very low incomes. Certain taxes or regulations might bear more tax burden on low income farmers compared to others. This might be efficient, but is it just? It would be interesting to examine the various solutions brought up in chapter 17 more closely, from both an efficiency and equity standpoint.

In an earlier class period we talked briefly about the water drought in the central valley of California, and how a water permit system might help allocate water more efficiently in the area. Being from California myself, I'm interested in looking into the issue. It would be cool as a class to talk about it again, now that we have had more exposure to natural resource economics ideas and material.

Grant Przybyla

I would like to talk more about the deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon. Particularly, deforestation as a result of cattle ranching and soy bean production, and how foreign demand and the price of beef and soy have affected deforestation rates. This is something that I have been covering in my ENV-110 class that I have found interesting and I believe a more in-depth conversation would be useful, especially one that involves data and models to understand the relationship between deforestation and foreign demand.

Matthew Inglis

In tomorrow's class, I believe it would be interesting to investigate table 13.1: Estimates of Forest Cover Area and Deforestation by geographic subareas, and table 13.2: Forested Area and Deforestation Rates during the 1990s, from chapter 13. They support the claim that we have been over-harvesting our forests through empirical evidence. From table 13.1, not a single subarea saw an increased or even maintained forest area. This is concerning and could help lead a discussion on why conservation is necessary.

John Koch

For Thursday’s class, I would like to discuss the differences between common property resources and open-access resources. Kahn uses the buffalo population as an example of common property, explaining that the cultural traditions of Native Americans served as restrictions to limit the magnitude of hunting. Only when non-Native Americans, who considered conservative hunting to be pointless, did the buffalo become endangered.

It would be interesting to explore whether or not policy changes today could create the common property effect. Furthermore, I would be interested to see if it is possible to determine a point at which the benefits of preventing open-access exploitation are not worth the costs. Is it possible to determine that preserving a species is not in society’s best interest?

Sarah Michalik

For Thursday's class, I would like to talk a little more about debt for nature swaps. We have already touched on this subject a couple of times with the example in Costa Rica, but I am curious if there are any instances in the past where this has been employed. I would be interested to see the how a policy such as this plays out in the long term. We have brought aspects of psychology into our discussions before, and I believe applying psychology to this scenario to determine whether a debt for nature swap policy will be beneficial in the long run would be an interesting study.

Matt Hedberg

In tomorrow’s class, I would like to discuss the state and local government’s role in the transition from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy. How can each state choose which renewable source is best for them? At what point do the costs of renewable energy sources outweigh the benefits they provide? I am most interested in talking about my home state, North Carolina. In recent years, North Carolina has put a REPS, or Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard, into place. I would like to examine how their efforts are changing the state’s energy portfolio and their effects on the portfolios of other states.

Linda G.

Animals are damn near one of my favorite things. So, Tables 14.3 and 14.4, which list the endangered species within the United States and the rest of the world, were especially eye-catching and regrettably alarming. The list of endangered mammals only in the U.S. is staggering. I would be interested in discussing the positive relationships that may or can exist between economic growth and the biodiversity of ecosystems globally.

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