Thursday, November 29, 2012

Must Environmental Economics Be "Humancentric"?

I will be teaching undergraduate environmental economics at UCLA this Winter.  In my humble opinion it will be a very good course. For the first time in 7 years, I've actually made some major modifications to the class.  Given that my primary appointment is at the UCLA Institute of the Environment,   there are always many students who have never taken an economics course before.  This subset of students are environmental science majors.  While they are quite talented, they are often quite offended by the economist's worldview featuring human's dominance over nature.  These students are often surprised that economists do not get philosophical over how humans seized the property rights over nature.    We merrily embrace that natural resources belong to us as we decide how to best use this scarce resource.  With this in mind, I present you with a "bird's view".   Last week the NY Times had a long piece about smelly birds degrading La Jolla, California (home to UCSD) and a beautiful part of the world.    Today, there is a letter in the NY Times that I link to above.  The author seeks to remind the world that it is tough to be a bird these days. Birds face a variety of challenges that we have unintentionally created for them.  The author wants us to have a more inclusive social welfare function defined over all of the world's creatures.  I will remember that the next time I see a slug in my driveway.

Switching subjects, did I mention that I have discovered the Fountain of Youth?  For those of you who still like to rock out, join me on YouTube and listen to the full length Stones Album "Their Satanic Majesties Request".  After not listening to this album for almost 30 years, I am back and have listened to it 5 times today (as I worked!).