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mattiegrant
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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.
Toggle Commented Apr 22, 2020 on ECON 255 Final Exam at Jolly Green General
In Tools of Titians, a book I'm currently reading by Tim Ferris, there's a quote from Sebastian Junger which I found to be connected to Franker's message. Stressful information tends to increase the flight or fight responses in our minds. Junger gives an example of special forces members of the military. He says that when these individuals are told they're about to experience an attack, their cortisol levels dropped and they were super calm. For these individuals, their cortisol levels increased with the anxiety about the unknown. As soon as they knew what was coming, they were able to spring into action with a purpose. They had a sense of mastery and control that made them feel less anxious than they were just waiting around in a dangerous place. To relate to this article, we are constantly surrounded with news about the declining state of the environment, and, although there are some slivers of positive progress, we are accustomed to taking in this information and feeling a sense of despair. I think the most prominent message here is that we (individuals, organizations, etc.) don't just have to sit around and wait. It's actually incredibly beneficial to act - for the individual and the world. The Blue Marble Project seems to work to lower cortisol levels and allow individuals to approach the information with an open mind - in a way that is much calmer than reading disheartening statistics in the news.
The Solutions Project website seems to have a very comprehensive review of all the benefits to clean energy and some sizable accomplishments towards the goal. Oftentimes I find myself frustrated after reading about the benefits of clean energy or programs to make the switch to clean energy easier for businesses and individuals. I find myself thinking "why haven't we done this everywhere?" after reading about all of the social and economic benefits that have been created by a conversion to clean energy. I read the article about cities being the frontlines for green energy. I agree with the idea that cities will be the frontlines for notable advancements in green technology, but there is a barrier when it comes to funding. Federal money is needed in order for cities to make changes that will, ultimately, be beneficial in the long run - most upfront costs will pay for themselves over the course of a few years. In New York City, energy efficiency is at the frontlines of their Green New Deal plan. I began thinking through this plan and the feasibility of it being implemented nationally. The most important part of this plan is the collaborative nature; I think this is something that could be achieved on a national level if there is an incentive for everyone. One of the coolest things about this plan was that buildings must display an energy efficiency grade from A to F. This is similar to something mentioned in class in terms of energy consumption; households can see where they stand on energy usage in compression to the rest of their neighborhood. If something if going to be posted in your building, I would hope that you would strive for the highest rating possible. This could also aid consumers in being more selective about who they give their business to if energy efficiency is something they value. I also think success has been had in NYC, Boulder, and Seattle because of the requirements placed on building owners. To make something finable is probably the best incentive for changing one's behavior.
Policy implementation tends to vary greatly from the legislation passed by Congress. The Green New Deal has made ambitious plans; from the time it was created, it set goals and targets which seemed to cover all sections of society and industry. I don't think this vague, ambitious plan differs greatly from much other legislation. It is common for laws to create end goals but provide minimal instruction on how to get there. The fact that the GND covered a large amount of topics was not necessarily a downfall. The only problem seemed to be that, because the GND had many objectives, critics were able to point out many things that they disagreed with. One of the most interesting approaches I noticed was how the language of the GND tied natural causes to negative, societal effects. To put a dollar value on the damage or losses definitely grabs the attention of most readers. If this level of waste was being caused by anything other than the climate, it would be addressed immediately. It also seems that the things that are 'bad' in our society are only made worse because of climate change and pollution; this is a very optimistic but broad claim.
Toggle Commented Apr 15, 2020 on ECON 255: The Green New Deal at Jolly Green General
An interesting note about these current times is that we are literally all in this together. There are some communities that are being impacted more than others by this outbreak, but, ultimately, it has entered the United States and has now changed everyone's reality. There are people who are taking varied approaches in their responses. It honestly seems logical to me that the counties that voted for Trump in 2016 would be less likely to practice social distancing. These individuals elected Trump for a variety of reasons - because he was an outsider to politics, because he promised to drain the swamp, build the wall, etc. These voters selected a candidate they felt best represented their values or what they hoped the future nation would look like. These voters were anti-bureaucracy and distrustful of politicians and the government. These would likely be the same people who have freedom at the forefronts of their minds. The connection I drew from the Trump counties and the poor adherence to the social distancing guidelines was that these people probably place a large amount of value on their individual freedoms - whether that be freedom to own a gun or freedom to stand less than 6ft apart from someone in the line. Our country is made up of many individuals and when some of these individuals are highly susceptible to respiratory illness, it is frustrating to see so many individuals not complying with the CDCs guidelines.
It was interesting to read about different cases for carbon taxes coming from both sides of the political spectrums. As was mentioned before, the proposals are surprisingly similar, even though the current times would have us believe that Republicans are anti-environment and any conservation or betterment of the environment comes from Democrats. It was almost comical to observe the differing rationale that appeared in each proposal. The Conservative case emphasizes the economy, the working class, and a reduced need for future regulations. The most prevalent themes seem to be strengthening the economy and reducing the power of the government in the long term. The Progressive case emphasizes the scientific argument of a carbon tax and the benefits to lower income families if a dividend is enacted. In my politics class about Congress we always talk about the problems that political division tends to have on meaningful policymaking. Texts from my politics class state that the right has moved further right over the past 10-15 years, leaving little room for overlapping politics. There has been a trend in recent years away from moderate or middle stances on most policy issues, so I found it optimistic to read two pieces that were marketed to different audiences but with very similar policy goals.
Toggle Commented Apr 13, 2020 on The Case(es) for a Carbon Tax at Jolly Green General
One of the points raised in this article that I was able to connect to our previous class discussion was through the interactive vulnerability map. In western corner of Virginia, along Appalachia, the map details that this area has a high vulnerability due to the "high amount of impoverished households, below average labor market engagement, low commercial retail availability, and low retail job density." Not mentioned in this map was the fact that the population is already at a disadvantage because of the impacts of the mining industry here. The article focuses on Louisiana and the African American population being disproportional affected by COVID-19. I would imagine that each state has some area that is disproportionally impacted. I would also imagine that each of these areas probably have higher levels of air pollution already. Not being predisposed to unhealthy levels of pollution is a benefit awarded to individuals who are able to afford to live in these areas. This is a way to demonstrate their preferences. For lower-income families and individuals, there is not even an opportunity to demonstrate their preferences, as they are only able to afford to live in areas where the air pollution is higher. These groups of people have been impacted by high levels of air pollution for multiple years, even multiple generations. The outcomes are horrible and deserve to be talked about. Yes, this is a global pandemic. Yes, everyone is impacted - but not everyone is impacted equally.
It's always interesting to think about putting yourself in a policy maker's shoes. Often times policy implemented fails to take into account the long term effects as there is pressure to "get stuff done" so to speak. I think that this is the case with the EPA's move to ease pollution enforcement. I can't imagine that the goal of the EPA is to put more individuals at risk during a global pandemic. I think that the only reasonable explanation for this action is failure to think ahead. The Covid-19 outbreak has put pressure on government's worldwide to respond. Most of the US Congress' response has been focused on mitigation thus far. I think that eventually there will be movements to restore the norms, but, for now, any government response is focused on getting certain businesses through this time of economic hardship. The current stimulus package has placed emphasis on helping businesses survive, rather than stopping the spread of the virus. In the short term, having less emphasis on pollution enforcement seems like a good idea and is helpful to businesses. In the long term, this decision could exacerbate or even prolong the impacts on Covid-19.
From a public policy standpoint, I found these articles particularly interesting. The first article highlights that unsafe air pollution most negatively impacts the cognitive abilities of elderly people. When you think about people advance in age relocating or retiring, it is more beneficial for them to move to cities or areas where everything they need is in a close proximity (such as pharmacy, doctor, grocery store, post office). Unfortunately, while these areas offer connivence, these areas are also more likely to have negative health impacts. The second article highlights the impacts of air pollution, specifically particulate matter. Linking this to the first article, I find it interesting that the longe term impacts of particulate matter are not being studied or talked about more. Again from a policy standpoint, the public health impacts could be huge based on the fact that ultra fine particulate matter can get deeper into lung tissues than other forms of air pollution and cause a cardiovascular risk for certain groups. There are advantages to research and regulation, as cleaner air would probably minimize the spending or visits to doctors. No one is going to argue that clean air is "bad," but I think the most compelling arguments to be made are the fact that the benefits of more regulated air would minimize health care spending enough to balance out the upfront spending on regulation and research.
Toggle Commented Mar 12, 2020 on 3 short papers for Friday at Jolly Green General
I found this article to be very interesting, as it looks at the harmful impacts of coal through a variety of lenses. I feel like it is very common to discuss and research the harmful effects of coal extraction, or burning, but this study highlights a variety of issues found throughout the "lifecycle" of coal. There are downstream detrimental impacts to the economy, local environment, and human health. It is much more impactful to think about all of these issues together to really understand the scope of the problem. Studies which just highlight the environmental impacts are not as effective at conveying the severity of the issue as this study has done. One of the biggest roadblocks to cutting back the use of coal and minimizing the negative externalities associated with mining and burning it is the combination of its abundance and its low cost. There is a fear that, because this is a global issue, the United States putting legislation in place to reduce the reliance on coal will negatively harm the economic ability to compete with the rest of the world which is still continuing to use a cheap source of energy. The competitive advantages of coal use have historically outweighed the negatives associated with it. Whatever solution is decided upon must be implemented globally. From our class studies, it makes sense to find some way to incentivize the switch from coal to a cleaner source of energy, but I feel that this legislation would not get passed in the United States for fear of a freeloader problem with the rest of the world.
Toggle Commented Mar 5, 2020 on Discussion Paper for Friday at Jolly Green General
It is very interesting to think about mandatory payment to conservation organizations for the recreational use of the environment in Belize, but it makes sense. If the current rate of consumption and pollution continues, beautiful ecosystems will become more and more scarce, thus justifying either a market for their recreational use or a need for increased conservation efforts to maintain the natural beauty of an area. Not being a true economist (yet), I am still fascinated by the ability to turn yes/no questions into equations. I have experienced, in Florida, having to pay an entrance fee in order to get onto a certain island. I believe the fee was something like $20, but my mother was very determined to see this island because it was mentioned in her tour book, so the fee did not dissuade her. The parallel that can be drawn to the survey in Belize is that, if something is valued, there will be no real barrier to tourists for visiting. As mentioned in the study, individuals belonging to environment groups are more willing to pay the higher fees; it could be assumed that these individuals will also be more likely to treat the ecosystem with respect. It can't necessarily be assumed that individuals who are not willing to pay more than the $3.75 would be deterred from visiting the country. If a higher PACT fee was charged, then I feel that tourists would simply view this as another travel cost. I think that it would be important to state what the fee was going towards in order to justify the cost in the mind of the tourists.
I think the article brings up a great point as to the theme of consumption present in society. There is an important distinction made that more production and consumption will eventually lead to a decreased standard of living for the whole. In a society that thrives off of social, technological, and industrial ‘progress,’ it is difficult to fathom a society that is content. I also feel that in the every advancing field of science, there is always ‘more to be discovered’ and as a result members of society are accustomed to waiting for the next discover to disprove the previously accepted assumption (ie. the Pluto is a planet view shifted to Pluto is not a planet and everything you learned in school is wrong). In the realm of environmental attitudes, the media and “skeptics” have portrayed environmental science as still in its infantile phase, even though the theories have been around for years, with most supported by substantial evidence. Because the article first presents the problems associated with natural resources use, I became curious as to why an effective policy has not yet been reached. The conclusion I have arrived at is that because the problems of natural resource allocation and conservation impact so many sections of society, it is just too large of an issue to easily grasp. Because it involves science, and new discoveries are being made every day, there is also the realm of thought that maybe too much value being placed on something that the general public does not see in their day-to-day life. Many will hear about the negative responses of the environment to an increased use of fossil fuels, but few will actually study the science or see the harmful effects. It is obvious that some people are able to place value on things they cannot see (WWF endangered species), but I am unsure the best way to evoke the same type of care for, literally, the entire world when there are so many parts being affected. It is easy to evoke compassion for the almost extinct species of money in the Amazon, but yet it is hard to evoke compassion for the ozone, the air quality, the ocean levels, the temperature at the poles, and the depleting resources available. There is obviously the ability for humans to care about something they cannot see, but it seems that there is no great solution for advertising causes that need attention in a meaningful way.
An important point mentioned is that both parties involved in the transaction are causing damages. This is contrary to the common media message that one side is to blame for a certain problem and the other side is a victim. The solutions to many problems depends on whether the cost of continuing one activity is less than the damage that would otherwise occur. In that instance, it would be possible for two opposing parties to come to a mutually beneficial solution. In may of the early examples, this solution would involve monetary compensation for the use of land, the making of noise, the creation of an unpleasant smell if the parties agreed; however, I am not completely clear on the best way to relate this to the problem of unintentional pollution or damage to ecosystems. It appears to me that there would be a large amount of resources spent in order to put a monetary value on destruction of ecosystems (scientists would need to simulate and study the absence of a certain member which could result in detrimental effects or no effects at all) and facilitate conversations between the opposing parties to reach a mutually beneficial agreement. The main issue I find hard to comprehend is the idea of doing a cost benefit analysis on the environment; I feel it would be incredibly difficult to convey the negative (or positive effects) of actions which are often created by someone removed from what they are harming. But I guess that is the barrier to many effective solutions; how does a governing body best intervene in private matters, such as production, in search of a meaningful solution?
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Jan 16, 2020