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04/21/2020

Comments

Steven Black

I have thought about this a lot lately and have narrowed it down to two things that I find most important/interesting from this class. They are related, so I will include them both. My biggest takeaway from this class is the severe environmental impact of both the coal and beef industries. The greenhouse gas emissions from these two industries are among the leading causes of climate change, and there are so many better alternatives to both industries. Lately, I have found myself telling everyone I know about how horrible these two industries are for the environment. I have also made the decision to no longer eat beef and primarily stick to chicken and fish. I have only eaten beef once in the past two months (because a friend cooked for us), and that is a direct result of what I learned this semester. I greatly enjoyed taking this class, and it is as opened my eyes to many new aspects of both the problems and potential solutions to climate change.

Patrick Sullivan

I think the most important thing that I have learned in this class is the feasibility of attacking all of the issues we have discussed. I took this class a a way to challenge myself and learn about a topic that I really had no experience in and wanted to learn more. Throughout discussions and reading assignments I began to understand just how attainable some of these ideas really are. While I did not agree with all the proposed plans, I think most of them changed how I thought about climate and environmental issues as a whole. This class was insightful and challenged me every day, I enjoyed it.

Margot McConnell

I think one of the biggest things I took away from this class that can especially be applied to the reality we live in now with COVID-19 is the injustices that many face in relation to pollution. The studies we read earlier this semester about peak expiratory flow rate, other negative health impacts and the effect it can have on cognition. In today’s world, it seems that now more than ever we must act in order to fight this injustice. It is not fair that those who are at a socioeconomic disadvantage have to live closer to factories or coal power plants, that those are the people working in these more dangerous environments, and that they suffer the health consequences but lack access to proper health care most of the times. It seems to be cyclical in nature when you look at poverty and injustice. I think an important theme that we kept emphasizing in class is while there is always room for bad news, we must also focus on the good news. While I cannot say that there is much good news about environmental injustices right now, maybe there will be some in the near future. I think that COVID-19 is shedding light on a lot of the inequities that exist throughout the United States. While I am not sure what will happen in terms of health care injustices within the United States after this pandemic, I hope that one positive outcome of this is that people realize there is a serious need to reform. These people do not deserve to be put at a disadvantage, and right now, the fact that they are is the harsh reality of the morality rates that are affecting these communities. Nevertheless, I try to remain optimistic that COVID-19 can expose some of the faults within the United States in regards to equality and justice so that it can be changed for the better. I know I, in particular, will be more cognizant of these disparities going forward.

rrirwin

The biggest thing I took away from this class is that, in regard to climate change and the dangers associated with it, there are more reasons to have hope than fear. Each environmental issue we covered this semester can be conceptualized using an economic model or tool. With this in mind, we—and by “we” I mean us as individuals, the United States, and every person and country around the world—can formulate solutions. Additionally, I learned that these solutions aren’t nearly as dramatic as they’re often made out to be. From carbon pricing to abatement costs, these tools are available for use. But, in the words of G.I. Joe, “knowing is half the battle.” All it will take is for policy makers and individuals to step up and use these tools to change the path we’re headed down. I will also always remember the phrase “mutually agree to mutually coerce.” It will take a collective effort, but the changes deemed necessary are not anything we can’t handle.

ParkerJulian

The biggest takeaway I got from this semester was two-fold. Firstly, I realized how complex each of the issues we have talked about are, and how in reality we are only touching the surface. We are in an age where political discourse is hard to have and even disheartening in my experience because everyone is so obsessed with having the “correct” stance on issues. And then this human desire to be right is amplified by the polarizing nature of America’s politics and media. My second takeaway is that, even though these issues are so complex and hard to pin down, there are so many good people dedicating so much time and energy to these complex issues. I saw this from my peers in class as well as authors and researchers we read. To read research from people who have spent so much time on a given topic (ex. Mountaintop removal in Appalachia) and see how much depth it has is shocking. You would think that this person who has spent a large portion of their life on the issue would have “an answer”, but in reality they only have more questions. It’s inspiring that people are able to admit that maybe we don’t have an answer, because it seems that that is a rare quality in our culture. Too often people who have spent minimal thought or energy on an issue like climate change actually believe they know the answer because news outlets make everything look so clear-cut. And then these people are outspoken and clash with people on the other end of the spectrum. But this class has made me look at the news as if there is truth is everything, but you can always dive deeper. Professor Casey, you are a great example of this. You have spent more time and energy on learning about climate issues than probably anyone I’ve ever met. Yet in every conversation we had you found a way to make us realize that any solution is going to lead to more problems, and that there isn’t a perfect solution. I think the world would be a better place if people looked at complex issues as complex instead of trying to find the “right” stance. This class has changed the way I will look at politics and news, and has showed me that all of these issues are infinitely complex. With that said, it’s inspiring to hear and read people who are willing to admit there is no perfect answer yet spend their lives trying to help create a better answer.

Max Gebauer

Economics Is Not the Enemy of Environmentalism

Economics is perhaps the most misrepresented academic discipline in the interdisciplinary study of climate change (from the perspective of a philosophy student in particular). In addition, people invoke economics when making arguments that true economic literature directly contradicts. The most impactful lesson of this class was that not only is economics not the "enemy" in the work to fight climate change, environmental discrimination, and biodiversity loss etc., in fact it represents one of the most powerful analytic tools in figuring out the true costs of our decisions and the true value we ascribe to certain things. Prof. Casey joked over Zoom that economics tells you what everyone else already knows. For example, almost anyone with any knowledge of air and water pollution could tell you how it impacts the health of communities in Appalachia, but economics can, like no other discipline, attempt to actually quantify the problem, to tell us just how bad it really is. The same goes for full life cycle accounting of fossil fuels and how this changes our analysis of what is the most cost-effective option. Economics may be confirming something we might already know, but it takes that crucial next analytic step and has plethora of methods to tell us the actual quantitative data exemplifying the problem. Policy is not and cannot be informed without this crucial next step, particularly with topics in environmental policy. Overall, this class has given me a much stronger appreciation of the role of economics in the interdisciplinary fight against climate change, not only an appreciation, but at least a rudimentary understanding of the actual methods and tools that economics provides, and now I hope to integrate economic methods and data into my eventual philosophy thesis on the ethical dimensions of climate change.

Joey Dunn

As an Environmental Studies and Business major, this class was right up my alley. From tools for government intervention to the President's prevention of research on the health effects of mountain top removal, nearly every lecture and class discussion had me thinking about the topic with a new perspective. One of the hardest things about studying environmental studies is that it can often feel hopeless, as you quickly realize there are way more problems than you initially thought and each one of them is far more complex than anticipated. One of the major complexities is that it often appears our economy-driven society and political landscape cannot coincide with fixing environmental problems. However, the most valuable thing I have learned in our class is that there are already viable solutions to many of the complex issues that can and will ultimately improve the efficiency and maximize the value in our economy. How will this help me become a better citizen? Well, we may have some theoretical solutions, but we need people to make them a reality. I hope to be one of those people.

Olivia Luzzio

My biggest takeaway from this course has been the lens of the 3 i’s (ignorance, interests, and ideology) which we have applied to issues throughout our study of environment and natural resource economics. The 3 i’s provide a succinct and widely relevant explanation of economic behavior and the persistence of inefficient policies in our society. While we discussed ignorance, interests, and ideology mainly in terms of environmental inefficiencies, this framework pertains to nearly every area of economics including health, labor, education, and development. In Environmental and Natural Resource Economics, for example, we talked about how the ignorance of people in coal-mining communities, the interests of coal companies, and the ideologies of policymakers representing the communities leads to the proliferation of coal mining despite its detrimental impact on the economy. Similarly, in the realm of labor economics, we could discuss how income inequality in the U.S. is growing in part because the national minimum wage is kept low due to the ignorance of the people it affects, the interests of large corporations, and the ideologies of the policymakers who rely on these large corporations for funds. Ultimately, the lens of the 3 i’s is one I will carry with me throughout the remainder of my coursework in Economics and Global Politics and into the real world.

Lauren Paolano

The biggest takeaway I learned from Environmental Economics is that social change must begin at the individual level in order to promote global change. During one of our last few weeks of class on campus, we read an article about the 10 more important facts on what an individual can do to diminish the long-term effects of global climate change. One important face I took away was the consumption of red meat. In my family growing up, we probably ate red meat a few times a week in order to promote healthy growth and to have a sustainable protein intake. As an athlete, I learned there are many other forms of protein to consume, without the overkilling of animals in order to have a balanced diet and lifestyle. I practice catholicism, and for this season of lent, I gave up eating red meat for 40 days. I learned that I honestly did not miss eating red meat that much and I was able to find other forms of protein through various types of vegetables and fish. It truly is such an easy change for one to make, and I hope that slowly we all can make daily lifestyle changes in order to stop the ever lasting effects of global climate change.

abrahamr22

While the phrases “mutually agree to mutually coerce” and “ignorance, interests, and ideology” will both ring in my head for a long time beyond this class, an interesting takeaway from this Natural Resources Economics course would likely be as a couple people seem to already beat me to is that renewable energy is in fact a reasonable future. More importantly, there are ways to gauge total economic value and this can serve as economic incentive to efficiently lower global carbon emissions. Whether through direct use observations of travel costs, choice experiments, contingent valuations, or neuroscience studies, our Earth can most definitely be proven worthy of saving even when addressing entities whose prime focus is maximum profit. Also, endogeneity has been a key word this year across a range of my courses. In the lens of this course, it has been used in the context of rationalizing that economic development within the United States as well as “developing” nations must not depend on GHG emission. Wind, water, and solar are working well for nations in Northern Europe and Asia, and the US government should really help expedite the process by incentivizing behaviors that contribute toward long-term public benefits. Humans are not innately greedy but tend to exhibit selfish behaviors, while I am not the biggest advocate of individual efforts effecting big change, I will continue to strive to make actions with the least social damage such as actively avoiding red meat, limiting my consumption of single use plastics, composting even when it is not immediately convient, and most importantly, voting for municipal, state, and national politicians with platforms that address issues that can be more impactfully enacted by a legislator. I definitely do not think I named or could pinpoint only one thing, but this course introduced me to brilliant literature connecting science to numbers that matter in a public policy setting and for that I am grateful. Happy Earth Day, all!

Lucas Roberton

My biggest takeaway from this class is that I realized, similarly to Max, that economics isn't always just about producing the efficient output, and can actually be used to help with conservation. Before this class, I would have never considered using economics to try to value pollution, or beaches, or forests. This class has allowed me to think about how we can make better conservation decisions using economic concepts. For example, I never really had a good understanding of just how damaging our current energy use was until this class, when we spent time looking at not only the economic use of, for example coal, but also looking at the damages that it does to the people working in and around the coal industry. I also have seen how interests, ideology, and information can have such strong impacts on the decisions that are made around our environment. Going forward, I believe that I can use this to be a better citizen by first, trying to help stop the issue of misinformation when it comes to environmental economics. Simply by recommending articles that we have read to misinformed people, I think we could do a lot of good. Secondly, I can make both political and everyday decisions based off of the new information that I have received throughout this class. Whether this is looking at the environmental stances of political candidates, or choosing which companies to support based on their environmental stances, I think I can use what I have learned to better both my political and my everyday actions.

Jacob Thompson

The biggest takeaway that I’ve gotten from this class is the true of extent of environmental issues and how they impact such a wide variety of people and areas. I will admit that I was a bit naive coming into this class, I was aware that there were many problems facing the environment, but assumed they were fairly consolidated and we couldn’t do much to change them. However, my opinion quickly changed through the readings and class discussions. I think that the topic that struck me the most was that of mountain top removal and its impacts on surrounding areas. I had no idea that we were still using practices like this, and was completely unaware of the fact that it causes major health issues for the people that live nearby. I was even more awestruck that the President ordered a stop of the research relating to mountain top removal and harmful health consequences, despite previous research showing a clear correlation. I’m thankful for the opportunity this class has given me to really learn about how vast environmental issues can be, and that there’s more than just air pollution and global warming. In terms of being a better citizen, I feel that the best thing I can do as of now is to prevent myself, as well as those around me, from being blinded by ideology. I was amazed at how much of the material we covered involved problems that could be greatly reduced if we simply put aside our political views. So much pollution and harm for the environment has stemmed simply from stubbornness and selfishness, and while this may not be a problem we can fix in the short run, I feel that it could very well be fixed in due time as long as we teach our children the true impact we can have on the environment. I hope it’s not too late for that.

Lawsonj21

The most important thing I learned this semester is the value and strength of human innovation and ingenuity, and how this is playing in a role in our current climate crisis. For centuries, humans have encountered societal problems and have used innovation and ingenuity to solve these issues. For example, in the 1920s the only way to get from the North Bay area to San Francisco proper was to drive 2+ hours around the enter San Francisco Bay. However, due to human ingenuity and innovation, the magnificent and technological wonder that is the Golden Gate Bridge was built to solve this problem. This same scenario of seemingly impossible and daunting challenges faced by humanity which were overcome has played out time and time again over the past few centuries. For example, many infectious diseases were seen as something uncontrollable for centuries, however the 20th century saw the eradication of deadly infectious diseases such as smallpox and rinderpest. In space and technology, the idea of going to the moon or creating an international space station was seen as impossible in 1960 before being completed in 1969 and 1998 respectively.

I view the current situation with climate change in the same historical mindset as these other events. Currently, we view the increasing levels of carbon in the atmosphere and environmental degradation as a daunting challenge that is seemingly impossible to collectively overcome. However, throughout this semester I have learned about many ways in which we are using human innovation and ingenuity such as electrification of our transportation and energy network and sustainable farming techniques to solve this great problem in front of us. In the centuries to come, I am sure we will look back on climate change as just another problem humanity has faced and overcame.

Nikki Doherty

The most important/interesting thing that I have learned this semester is that conversations, debates, and articles surrounding climate change are full of paradoxes. For instance, the elimination of pollution’s negative externalities seems so costly yet in reality, the costs wane in the sight of the social costs of pollution. Additionally, conversations surrounding climate change make improvements seem so far off and drastic (i.e. through feasibility or uprooting current lifestyles) although the more-efficient technologies already exist and even minor transitions show positive impacts. Last is the paradox of burdens—low-income groups and countries who least contribute to pollution are the populations who bear its biggest costs. In turn, the environment becomes another mechanism through which we disadvantage vulnerable subsets of the world’s population. I believe that these “paradoxes” are a result of the 3 i’s: ignorance, interests, and ideology. If we do not change our cultural attitudes away from polarization and individualism, it is going to be so much more difficult to turn our actions around and rekindle our relationship with the environment. To be a better citizen, I will be mindful of when I am ignorant (i.e. when I have more to learn), I will be cognizant of my interests (i.e. my inherent individual biases), and I will challenge ideology (i.e. suggest that we think beyond molds). I challenged myself to take this class and learn a lot about a subject I knew little about. I chose to overcome my personal ignorance regarding environmental issues, and this class has empowered me to continue to do so.

Adam Harter

I think what I learned in this course boils down to the point that Paul Krugman made in the Earth in Balance Sheet reading. He wrote, "but won't protecting the environment reduce the gross domestic product? Not necessarily--and anyway, so what?" This resonates with me because the most common argument I hear against action to protect the environment is that the costs are going to be too high. Especially growing up in Houston, there is a strong attachment for what the oil industry does for city economically. The adults I knew working in the industry obviously did not want to destroy the earth but suggesting change to discourage oil and encourage green energy seemed out of the question. Houston needed its oil, and there is no feasible alternative. As I got older, I began noticing flaws in this argument, but it wasn't until this class I truly felt that real change needs to be made (or knew about how to go about that change). The reason I feel this way now lies in the second sentence of Krugman's quote. First off, in this class, we learned a myriad of the potential economic benefits of committing to protecting the environment. And looking back now, it makes such distinct sense. A cared-for climate can produce a strong, sustainable economy better than one reliant on destruction and non-renewables. Secondly, I learned more than about the economic benefits. So what if the GDP goes down or firms are not as profitable? Our discussions of the social costs of damaging the environment on society illustrated to me that there are more important things than the balance sheet, even when it comes to economics. This class helped me become a better citizen because it influences my decision-making process. Rather than focusing on the financial return on where I spend my dollar or cast my vote, it is more important to think about the costs or benefits that decision has on the planet.

Sydney Goldstein

My biggest takeaway from this class is that everything is interconnected. On the surface that seems like a silly assertion, but truly I never realized how many things are related to another. First, and most obviously, this class is a relation between economics and the environment. I learned how economic concepts relate to environmental issues and climate change. I can now apply terms such as labeling coal a negative externality and discuss what the socially optimal level of coal use might look like. I can also discuss the tradeoff between development and conservation relating it to a PPF. While I knew some about economics and the environment independently, I had never related the knowledge of one to the other, and this class challenged me to think about these topics in a new intertwined way. I learned that a portion of the solution to climate change depends on economic solutions such as taxes, incentives, subsidies (or reducing them in the case of coal), and the existence of alternatives. But, I also learned, that while something might make sense economically, it might be difficult to accomplish in reality due to bureaucratic and political complications, thus also intertwining politics. For example, John Oliver talked about how in America and many other countries such as Canada the word “tax” has become a dirty word, and thus people seem to be adverse to a carbon tax purely because of the word tax, despite it being socially optimal. Also, the fact that there was a conservative and progresive case for the carbon tax rather than just a single case for taxing carbon, that party lines can complicate issues too. Furthermore, I learned that health and medicine is related to the environment. The biodiversity of places such as the Amazon could hold an ingredient to a new drug, particles released into the air as byproducts of coal production can cause cardiovascular issues in fetuses when breathed in by a mother at higher rates than smoking, and ozone cover can impact peak respiratory flow. And similar to this topic, I also learned that environmental issues are heavily linked to poverty. Poor communities are more likely to suffer the health effects associated with pollution than other demographics. They’re the ones that due to lack of means live near factories, coal mines, etc. that breathe in polluted air, drink contaminated water, and work dangerous jobs in mines and other locations. Finally, I learned that these issues also relate to behavioral sciences. Concepts such as moral suasion rely on psychology. So do the concepts of whether to use positive affect or negative affect when trying to convince people of an issue. There are probably many more fields and topics that can be related to what I learned in this class, but these were my main connections that were made in this class. This taught me to approach issues as being a small part of a larger, more extensive picture rather than as something isolated or independent.

Thanks for a great semester full of valuable discussion!

Maisie Strawn

Time and again we referenced Garrett Hardin’s phrase “mutual coercion mutually agreed upon” to address the issues we discussed in this class. That phrase, in and of itself, is one of my key takeaways from this semester. However, the most important thing I have learned from this class is that environmental economics (done well and when informed by concerns for justice and equity) could actually eliminate the need for the “mutual coercion” aspect of that argument. Environmental economics shows us that the way we are doing many things now is inefficient and inequitable. We should be able to mutually agree to address those problems without the force or threats of coercion. We have learned about how economists, scientists, and entrepreneurs are already showing us that good environmental policy and choices can actually “expand the pie,” growing economic opportunities for everyone while protecting our health, air, and water. To me, that does not seem like something we need to be coerced into. Unfortunately, as we’ve learned, interests, ideology, and ignorance have kept us and continue to keep us from making these more efficient, equitable, and healthy decisions. That’s where I think this class will make me a better citizen; it has given me tools, sound economic arguments, evidence, and even a little neuroscience, to fight the three I’s. I was really struck by the articles and discussions we had towards the end of the semester about the ties between environmental degradation, health, and inequity. In these times, I think that it is a really powerful place to start in addressing selfish interests and ignorance.

mattiegrant

I think one of the most beneficial aspects of this class, for me, was learning about stated preferences vs. revealed preferences. I've always heard the phrase "do as I say, not as I do," and the discussion in class about constructing a demand curve for the beach really stuck with me. I was never presented with a method for analyzing a commodity like the beach. I know I love the beach but to put a price on that? I can't. It was really interesting to think about using people's actions (what they do) as a means to value nature. I think this can be useful in my everyday life going forward as I think about being a conscious consumer. Because, from an economical and social perspective, what you do is just as important as what you say you're going to do. I recognize that I am just one individual, but this course has taught me that I could be a very important individual in terms of collecting data. Maybe after this whole mess is over, I'll reveal some preferences for natural, public goods.

Sydney Goldstein

I forgot to add a blurb about how this makes me a better citizen, so here's a brief part two. This helps me be a better citizen, since now I know that everything is so interconnected I realize just how ignorant I truly am. I learned that it is foolish to think you know everything and how everything relates because the world and topics are so expansive. Furthermore, with every new piece of knowledge you gain, you should be asking more questions. I’ve learned that learning is something that never stops, from learning new things, to connecting old ideas into a more cohesive understanding of the world. This allows me to challenge myself and those around me to be better and do better. It is challenging oneself and those around you that lead to progress and change through the dissemination of knowledge and ideas. Thus, I will always keep learning and share what I do learn with others.

Didi Pace

Throughout my past 3 years taking environmental studies courses, I frequently found myself thinking “okay... so why aren’t we doing anything about it?” Whether it was why aren’t we doing anything about mitigating the effects of climate change? Why aren’t we doing anything with the proven potential of a carbon tax? Why aren’t we doing anything about the distributional injustices of climate change impacts? (And by “we”, I mean the general public/government. There are, of course, select individuals/groups that are doing remarkable things on the climate change front.) This class helped me answer that ‘why’ question. The why boils down to ignorance, ideology, and interests. The promising thing is that albeit influential, these 3 i’s are not permanent. We have the tangible solutions/ideas for many environmental challenges. Once we can decrease the world’s ignorance, and align its ideology and interests, we can accomplish seemingly insurmountable feats. I will carry this lesson lesson forward by being cognizant of my own ignorance, ideology, and interests when faced with situations and decisions.

Matt Condon

Coming into this class, I was so accustomed to hearing the argument of using economics as a cop out for taking any action against environmental issues, especially those involving the climate. The argument I kept hearing would always say something like that measures could absolutely be taken to help the environment, but the economic effects of those actions would be so detrimental that it could change life as we know it. After taking this class, I think the most crucial thing that I have learned is not only that policies that benefit the environment can be put in place without causing this economic catastrophe, but our current state of policy with regards to environmental and natural resource economics is wildly inefficient, and they could lead to actual detrimental economic impacts if things do not change. Too often, people do not take the social cost of pollution, climate change, and other environmental issues into account and only look at the private cost, which is such a small fraction of the picture. Non-sustainable energy inputs such as coal may seem like feasible choices when strictly looking at the private cost and benefit of their extraction and removal, but the truth of our inefficiency quickly becomes apparent when you bring the social cost of coal mining and marginal damage cost to local communities into the equation. Not only are current policies inefficient right now, but they have the capacity to lead to irreparable damages in the long run if nothing changes. It can be difficult to imagine a world where rising sea levels could wipe coastal cities like New Orleans, Charleston, and Norfolk off the map, but that could be where we are heading, and the solution could start with something as simple as putting a price on carbon. I think this class has made be a better citizen by giving me the knowledge to educate others on these issues so that I can help, even if it is in a very small way, to build a populace that is educated on these issues and willing to make the small changes necessary for a great impact on the world.

Walker Morris

Economics 255 has truly been one of my favorite classes at W I will certainly miss our class (and Zoom) discussions on different topics relating to environmental protection, alternative energy sources, abating our output of carbon and methane, and the effects of policy on the environment. With that in mind, I learned a lot of new information relating to everything from our current political leaders to economic theory, and it is hard to pinpoint the “most important” thing I learned in this class. After thinking about it throughout the day, I have concluded that the most important and lasting lesson from this class is just how important the EPA is to the United States. As we learned, the EPA is crucial to environmental conservation, and efforts to mitigate pollution in our country. Despite this, politicians continuously discuss cutting funding and even eliminating the EPA altogether. President Trump has taken this stance by de-regulating the agency, cutting funding, and even preventing research. While the funding and regulations within the EPA will come and go as administrations do in Washington, the interference with scientific research is very concerning. Research is harmless to economic productivity, but it threats specific agendas that do not prioritize climate change. Interfering with it is extremely costly for future generations as a few years of lost research could accelerate climate change and prevent lawmakers from making important decisions in time. As the years progress and I continue to study economics and public policy, the lessons we learned about the EPA will certainly endure. It is now an agency that the US cannot afford to lose, and perhaps holds the greatest hope for our future. In terms of being a better citizen, I believe that I have become a much more conscious voter and am now more concerned with the future of our country. After all, it is our generation that will bear most of the responsibility for protecting the future of our planet. This class has certainly taught me to vouch for the EPA and our planet if I am ever fortunate enough to be in a meaningful position where I could influence policies, a company, or fellow Americans. On that note, it has been a pleasure to participate in this class, and the lessons learned from our civil discussions on environmental economics and environmental policy will remain on my mind for years to come.

Jack_curtis25

The most import thing I have learned this semester is to take a step back when dealing with massive problems and learn how to take the issues step by step. By looking at a monumental problem, like climate change, and seeing not how hard, unlikely, or even impossible the challenge may be, but that we as human beings have the tools and intellect to be able to begin hammering away at the problem. I think through the readings, lectures, and discussions throughout the semester I have begun to realize how possible the seemingly impossible is. While we are assuredly behind, possibly quite substantially so, the curve for mitigating the risk climate change poses, that does not mean we are out for the count. With an issue as monstrous as climate change and the scale to which the world must work together in unity to solve it, the key is to look at the little things that can be done, to get the momentum rolling in the right direction, in order to guide public sentiment in the right direction. We have talked about models like the MDF/MAC, how policies shift and affect it, various valuation techniques, etc. and the most salient thing about each of them to me isn’t the policy or model itself, although they are important, but the proof that this isn’t impossible, we have control over our own destiny, and that no matter what you hear on the news, from different pundits, or organizations from across the ideological isle, currently, right now, we have the capability to boldly strike down climate change while making the world more peaceful, equitable, and amiable. Technology that is currently available, like wind, solar, geothermal, hydroelectric, tidal, fuel cells, even nuclear, are at our disposable. Many policy proposals exist on how we can make strategic investments in the world with these technologies and into the development of new ones to solve the climate crisis while indirectly solving or at the very least making better many of the other social and economic problems that exist globally. Pollution and the quality of the environment are connected in so many ways to health, wealth, and general well-being of people everywhere it is hard to even comprehend what such effects, incremental at first but overwhelming in time, would have even given current levels of research into the subject. This class has taught me when faced with a challenge look for it’s vulnerabilities and focus your attack there. I don’t share many people’s fear of climate change because this class has taught me not that it isn’t a great threat to humanity, but that we have the power (literally) to defeat this demon. Because of this class I can see that clearly, and I hope all of my classmates can as well. I don’t fear climate change itself; I fear people lose hope in humanity and don’t realize not only that we have the capability to solve the crisis, but the capacity to do so and leave the world a better place because of it.

Valerie Marshall

When thinking of an answer to this question, my mind keeps going back to the article we read on the true cost of coal. For me, reading and discussing that article was the most interesting thing I have learned all semester. Learning about the full costs of coal’s life cycle and what the actual price of coal would be if the social marginal costs of coal were included in its private marginal costs made me realize the full extent to not just how underpriced coal is, but how underpriced other pollutants would be if a life-cycle analysis was conducted on them. Learning about all of the subsidies provided to the coal industry by the state of Kentucky in particular to make the business viable helped to make me realize how inaccurate the picture is often painted by politicians when discussing renewable energy versus fossil fuels. We are so often told how it is wrong for environmentalists to want government intervention in energy subsidies to help artificially make the price of renewable energy comparable to the price of fossil fuels. These politicians fail to mention the massive subsidies being provided to the fossil fuel industry, especially coal, to keep it profitable, or all of the extra costs placed on the public from the negative effects of coal mining that are not currently realized in its price. Some politicians like to argue that the playing field is fair between renewable energy and fossil fuels, and the government should not be making it unfair by favoring renewables. But in reality the playing field has never been fair, and long been tipped towards the advantage of fossil fuel industries like coal. I also enjoyed learning in this article about the diversity in the Appalachian mountains, and how the biodiversity in its headwater streams is second in the world only to the biodiversity of the Amazon. I have spent my whole life living only a few hours away from the Appalachian mountains, and never knew I was living so close to one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet. I took this class in tandem with Professor Harris’ Environmental Policy and Law class. Applying what I have learned in this class towards what I have learned in her class about how the government actually goes about regulating air pollution, has made me realize how inefficient our regulatory scheme is. I believe that this class has helped me to become a better citizen because I am now able to critically analyze our environmental policies and the economic theory (or lack thereof) behind them.

Noah Gallagher

Over the course of the semester, it's been clear to me how much we already know and how little we are doing about it, despite having the solutions within arm's reach. We know, without a doubt, that our environment is actively being damaged. It's also become clear to me how mitigation costs are far less expensive than fighting a larger conflict - a lesson that failed to be clear at the beginning of this pandemic and one that we desperately need to learn to counter the effects of climate change. I also greatly appreciate the economic analysis and cost-mitigation graphing that we did in this course. Oftentimes in politics, the debate is cast as one of the environment versus the economy. By reframing this discussion, I'm confident that we can find environmentally friendly ways to boost the economy, and find economically sound ways to ensure that corporations incorporate the true cost of their production into their business models. The question of what we can do to beat the climate crisis is one that we will have to address during our lifetimes, and unfortunately we're starting with a political system that is deeply divided and flawed. It's not an easy challenge. We'll need to overcome all three I's. I tend to be a pessimist (the past few years of politics have been bleak enough to make me quite jaded), but I believe that we can rise to the occasion. We have to. We can't afford not to.

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