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These three readings all reaffirm a point that has been made in this course and in many of my previous environmentally focused economics classes: environmental justice is as important as environmental sustainability (though they may work hand-in-hand). Though it may not truly matter considering the dire impact on these communities is the same in both cases, I wonder if many of the cases where minority groups are disproportionately affected by pollutants is a result of overt racism or institutional racism? Further, I thought the Cancer Alley piece was the most impactful, as I had not considered the fact that people are disproportionately more at risk for death from Coronavirus by residing in a certain geographical region, or in other words, more highly polluted areas. I found it extremely disheartening that people are not only so financially constrained that they are forced to live in an area knowing that they’re at the highest risk of cancer in the country, but that their only public hospital was destroyed with no mention of rehabilitation as well. I’m surprised that since Coronavirus received so much news coverage and overall attention from the media that more efforts were not made in hotspots such as Cancer Alley to help mitigate or filter the industrial toxins generating these underlying conditions that made so many fall victim to the virus.
Toggle Commented Mar 29, 2022 on Last Post for the Semester at Jolly Green General
I think its especially important that all three cap-and-trade policies examined ensure that low-income households are protected through means such as the Low-Income Energy Rebate Program and per-capita rebate. As mentioned many times in class, policymakers and those opposed to raising the price of emissions often argue that it’ll disproportionately impact lower-income households who cannot afford this price raise with their already tight budget. I’m unsure if the last reading mentioned this explicitly, but I wonder if the main reason that low-income households were more likely to support this type of policy than higher-income households was because of the slight financial gain the most extremely poor would experience. However, I find it interesting that middle-income households bear the highest burden and find that this might inhibit these types of policy from being supported or passed because I feel like policymakers tend to try and appease the middle-class the most in their campaigns. Additionally, because it is necessary to give firms and households sufficient time to make changes in implementing more efficient technologies, I also found it beneficial that the cap gradually becomes more stringent over time. I think this certainty of knowing that the cap will become more stringent will help encourage people to make good decisions in a world with so much uncertainty of the future in terms of climate change and its impacts.
Toggle Commented Mar 23, 2022 on Paper for Thursday at Jolly Green General
The part describing that less educated men are more affected by air pollution exposure than women and is further exacerbated in the long-term was surprising to me. While a focus on alleviating air pollution should obviously be of main concern, this seems to also have some implications for increasing the focus on more education in developing nations, as those who are more educated appear less vulnerable to the effects of air pollution. This report left me wondering if less educated people are more susceptible to similar consequences resulting from climate change and pollutants. Furthermore, the Australia piece was less surprising altogether in finding that children with a history of breathing problems are more vulnerable to ambient ozone pollution. All things considered, it seems clear that particulate matter and air pollution in general needs to be of great focus because of its seemingly detrimental effect on loss of life and on worsening overall quality of life.
Toggle Commented Mar 15, 2022 on Papers for Thursday at Jolly Green General
I especially enjoyed the first Harvard article because it begins by directly contradicting the argument posed by many climate deniers being that the current period of global warming is not due to anthropogenic causes but is part of a natural fluctuation as we have seen throughout earth’s history. Ironically, considering that I am an environmental major, my dad is a fervid climate denier who clings onto this very point whenever we argue about whether humans are causing climate change. I always appreciate reading articles like this one to further reinforce the point I always retort with, being, as Shrag puts it, “we are perpetuating the atmosphere beyond any state seen through the entire history of the human species” as can be clearly seen in figure 2. Though the article made me more hopeful in my success for inevitable future arguments with my father, It did not make me feel better about the state of our world. Shrag’s statement that “if we were to reduce our emissions to zero immediately, it would take more than 200 years for terrestrial and oceanic uptake of carbon to restore the atmosphere to its pre-industrial condition” along with his assumption that we are presumably underestimating future estimations of climate change makes our future appear ill-fated. Though climate scientists have become more accurate in their climate projection models since the article was written, the steps necessary for halting warming as stated in the conclusion do not seem to have been implemented at the rate in which Shrag suggests they should have. The second Harvard article also made me feel disheartened. In the year this article was written, we were at 380 PPM, and we are now at 412 ppm. This makes it appear somewhat unlikely we will stay under the goal of 550 ppm by 2100, considering we concentrations have already increased by about 30 ppm in just 16 years.
Toggle Commented Mar 9, 2022 on Papers for Thursday at Jolly Green General
The shortsightedness of those involved in deforestation activities pertaining to the usual decision to engage in logging activities now because of the many private benefits of doing so as opposed to the one private benefit (more trees to log in the future) of logging later appears to be a very similar mindset of those involved in depleting open access or ineffectively managed fisheries. However, this issue appears to be magnified in the realm of fisheries because it’s a true tragedy of the commons scenario where every fisherman wants to maximize their profits and fish as much as possible. Unlike the logging situation, the depletion of fisheries seems to have a more negative effect on fishermen because they cannot restock the seas as loggers can replant trees and because there appears to be a threshold to where a fishery cannot recover after overfishing. The article does say that open access fisheries “leave the fishermen poorer than those that are effectively managed,” leading me to believe that fishermen in open access fisheries would probably want efficient regulations like RBFM unlike loggers because although in the short run it will lower profits, the long run benefits of a steady fish stock are not as distant and are beneficial directly to the fishermen unlike the long run benefits of forest preservation. On another note, it appears almost impossible to effectively manage enough of the world’s fisheries because of how many there are, and figure 6 really shows how little regulation there is in the grand scheme of things. Though this article does offer many solutions to increasing regulation of fisheries, even if rules were implemented, I still do not believe that fishermen would follow the regulations because of a presumable lack of officials going out and actually regulating them. Additionally, the article ended upon a seemingly hopeful note that climate change could actually benefit fish stocks in the long run because of the reduction of fishing activities as a result of the initial depletion of fish stocks. However, I also do not think this is feasible because fish stocks are being drastically depleted today at presumably a similar rate and it does not appear that fish stocks today are able to rebound without a form of sufficient regulation. In other words, I do not see how things would be any different in this future scenario.
Toggle Commented Feb 9, 2022 on Paper for Thursday at Jolly Green General
This article was very interesting in that it confirmed the positive correlation between soybean plantations and increases and exports and deforestation rates. However, I chose to focus on another part of the article in this discussion response. From what I understand, it is very hypocritical that hydroelectric dams, which will have a detrimental social and environmental impact on both the region in which it is built and in areas beyond that, will still be praised under the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism. Though the article does not focus on this, I think this example really shows the tradeoff between choosing on which SDGs to invest in, specifically in the realms of developing cleaner energy sources or preserving the environment/rainforest. It was also interesting to see pushback against China from the Brazilian government in their attempt to limit the amount of Brazilian land China can legally own. However, this pushback seemed futile since the article mentioned that influential deputies are fighting to relax existing restrictions, making it seem like Brazil might be plagued by some sort of corruption allowing for these propositions to influence future policy.
Toggle Commented Feb 2, 2022 on Reading for Thursday at Jolly Green General
I thoroughly enjoyed the seminar, and I thought Julianna and her company along with the other projects W&L alumni have been working on mentioned by Professor Humston was really inspiring. It also gave me hope when Julianna mentioned the increase of demand for sustainable products like those that Terravive produces and that industries which work sustainably can not only benefit the environment and future generations but could also be attractive for firms to invest in as well. One question I had could it be profit maximizing or beneficial for the majority of firms who maybe aren’t producing sustainably to do so considering consumers will presumably pay more for products that are labeled as sustainably sourced? On another note, it was mentioned that population is not the true problem in comparison to overconsumption because resource use by people in developed nations is disproportionate to use in developing nations. However, isn’t population growth just as much of a pressing issue as we saw from the positive correlation between the population boom and the increase in global temperature?
Toggle Commented Feb 1, 2022 on Sustainability Webinar at Jolly Green General
Though tourism can be a great way for countries to profit off the preservation of its environment in favor of creating more unsustainable industries leading to more land degradation and pollutant emissions, the Barbados article seemed to contain negative undertones towards tourism, especially seen in the introduction section discussing the detriment of tourists’ littering habits. While it does mention how the local population contributes to coastline pollution as well, it seems to highlight the negative impact tourism. I think it should have instead highlighted its findings on how tourism could presumably almost fully reduce litter and fund targeted waste policy because of people’s willingness to pay for cleaner beaches and the loss of economic value resulting from litter. Essentially, it doesn’t matter if tourists pay an additional fee, as almost all would be willing to do according to the article, or if the tourism companies pay themselves to eradicate the litter because in the end, everyone should benefit from cleaner beaches. I liked the Belize piece a lot, and similarly to the Barbados article, it gave me hope of potential industries that could help preserve the environment while still being very profitable and attractive to investors. It did not surprise me that 80% of those surveyed were willing to pay significantly more than the original price of the entrance fee, for when people are immersed into an environment like Barbados and are truly able to appreciate the beauty of nature, they should rationally want to pay extra to preserve it. Out of all the articles we’ve read so far in this class and in Developmental Econ, these two probably gave me the most hope of our ability/desire to conserve at least some of the remaining ecosystems even if it’s purely driven by profit maximization.
Toggle Commented Jan 26, 2022 on Readings for Thursday at Jolly Green General
I appreciate that Solow recognizes the unfeasibility of the standard definition of sustainability: A moral obligation to the future to leave resources exactly how we found it. I think this definition probably deters some people from behaving sustainably because it is so unattainable to do so by its basic definition. I also appreciate his recognition that it’s not necessarily a bad think to go against this definition by altering the world in some manner because of the substitutability between certain resources that the market can work out such as, for example, raising the price of oil as it becomes scarcer leading to consumers to change consumption patterns to buying electric cars. However, I think his point that people’s tastes and preferences of the future could and probably will differ from ours today is very grim. I remember last semester in Developmental Econ we discussed how people born without any remaining forests will not value it nearly as much if at all as we do now, which still leaves me unsettled when trying to grasp that concept. I think Solow’s view on sustainability was supposed to leave us with more hope towards the future and make us feel better about our seemingly unsustainable actions today, but I was not left with that feeling after reading this. On the other hand, the This World is Enough article made me feel slightly more hopeful for our future, but still left me feeling sad as to why we have not yet taken advantage of the low hanging fruit available to cut our energy usage and reallocate goods to benefit more of the population as it described. The figure describing that it would cost about 6% of GDP, the amount we spend on going to restaurants and buying coffee, to reduce energy emissions on the road really emphasized just how simple it would be to behave in a more sustainable fashion, yet we continue to not do it...
Toggle Commented Jan 18, 2022 on Readings for Thursday at Jolly Green General
The topic I found most interesting was rainfall insurance. It provided a good example on why people’s risk-averse nature often deters them from increasing productivity on their farm, and also how beneficial eliminating risk can be. It was difficult to fathom why many farmers would not invest in rainfall insurance although 89% of households stated that drought was the most significant issue they face and less than 25% claimed they did not invest because they did not need it. Many of the reasons for these low take-up rates seemed to center around a lack of borrower education, making me wonder why education was not highlighted more as a solution to increasing take-up rates for such a beneficial concept. I hope we focus on rainfall insurance and other similar types of microinsurance in class tomorrow as I would like to better understand exactly why individuals choose to not utilize it when it can be so advantageous for them.
From what I gathered in Eichengreen and Mody’s paper, an increase in interest rates in developed countries leads to financial crises in developing countries if the developed-country interest rates drive the demand for developing-country bonds. This was best shown in the example of when US interest rates fell and ultimately led to a shift in the fiscal balance in Latin America from a deficit of 3% to a surplus of 1%. Because capital flows to emerging markets when interest rates are low in developed countries, you would think that a solution to help developing countries is to lower interest rates in a developed country. However, I guess this would not be feasible because of the negative implications this would have on the developed country’s economy. Though it makes sense, I wonder how accurate the findings of the paper are because it mentions this is only the case when controlling for the impact of US interest rates on the decision of borrowers to issue debt in developing countries, and because it mentions that econometric studies on disaggregated data have been unable to fully support this. All in all, the paper was difficult to really grasp, and I am not fully confident my interpretation of it is correct.
Toggle Commented Nov 18, 2021 on ... at Jolly Green General
Though this was only mentioned briefly, I found the section comparing the human capital versus the screening hypothesis (workers are selected because of their higher qualifications and not their actual enhancement in productivity from additional schooling) to be somewhat confusing. I don’t understand how a firm would actually be able to tell a worker’s productivity before hiring them and seeing their performance in the workplace firsthand. While more education clearly does lead to increased productivity based on the data, I would assume when hiring firms assume this to be true and therefore will hire workers simply based on the amount of education they have received. While the paper does state that findings showed that workers who barely passed versus those who barely failed high school had similar earnings enough to discredit the screening hypothesis, I was still surprised that a worker who completed high school would receive essentially the same job as a worker who hadn’t. I guess it does make sense that a less productive worker would be more likely to be fired from a job than a more productive worker and that this correlates with the amount of education they have received, but overall, this idea still does not make complete sense to me.
Toggle Commented Nov 11, 2021 on For Friday's Discussion at Jolly Green General
Duflo’s focus on familial structures itself is something I had not considered before. The comparison between treatment of boys and girls within the household, revealing differences in treatment not simply at the societal level, was devastating to read. The statistics showing that poor households are less inclined to spend money a girl’s illness than a boy’s and are more inclined to discriminate against vulnerable women than men in times of crises illustrates how a focus on implementing gender-blind policies with a poverty reduction aim would improve women’s standards of living twofold as compared to men. Additionally, because there is such discrimination at the household level, it is not necessarily surprising that such discrimination persists including high rates of sex-selective abortions and an overall male preference even in economically developed countries. Further in the piece, Duflo emphasizes that structural shifts to giving women more power as decision-makers within the family can be beneficial for the family as a whole as seen in improvements in child health. In conclusion, though Duflo places a significant amount of emphasis on the fact that promoting women’s empowerment and gender equality is not enough to fully eliminate bias, policies geared toward promoting equality in institutions should not be discredited, and Duflo even states that this improvement can achieve many other MDG’s while bringing about economic development.
Toggle Commented Oct 27, 2021 on For Friday's Discussion at Jolly Green General
I appreciated that the World Bank Executive Summary placed emphasis on the likelihood of poor communities being disproportionally affected by the consequences of global climate change. For example, an increase of extreme events is said to affect both rural and urban communities but will more strongly affect the poor residing in unstable infrastructure in higher risk areas (flood plains, steep slopes). Additionally, all three regions mentioned (LACS, MENA, and ECA) were said to experience a notable decrease in agricultural production as a result of changing climate conditions. This, combined with the resulting rise in food prices, will consequently lead to higher hunger and malnutrition rates among the poor in these areas. The piece also talked a lot about a stronger prevalence of flooding instances on the coastlines from melting glaciers and changes in weather patterns. It also mentioned that extreme heat will pose a significant threat for human health. I would assume that those residing in these more vulnerable areas would have to migrate to an area more suitable to reside in. However, many people would presumably not be able to afford to move to a new area altogether and would be faced with a formidable tradeoff of whether they should do so. On another note, the summary continuously used a 4 °C increase as one of the thresholds for when major consequences of climate change will become a reality. Though this did not initially sound like a lot to me, I was curious of the temperature change resulting in mass extinctions in the past and discovered that “a temperature increase of 5.2 °C above the pre-industrial level at present rates of increase would likely result in mass extinction comparable to that of the major Phanerozoic events, even without other, non-climatic anthropogenic impacts” ( Although we have reached only a 0.8 °C warming today, I think it is crazy that the piece talked about a 4 °C increase as something that is very much in the realm of possibility, and that this temperature is only 1.2 °C off from the 5.2 °C that is said to have caused mass extinctions.
Toggle Commented Oct 20, 2021 on For Friday's Discussion at Jolly Green General
The reading left me wondering whether Park Chung Hee was well-liked by those living in South Korea, for it appeared to ignore the actual quality of life aspect that seems to have come at the cost of economic development. While indicators of social welfare such as education rates did significantly improve under Park’s rule, I would presume that his style of leadership may not have been popular at the time. Considering that the authoritarian regime before Park’s presidency was overthrown, I would assume the “nearly dictatorial powers” Park awarded himself after his third time being elected was unfavorable to the public. I would guess that his “heavy-handed” ways to promote rural development such as ordering rural (poor) households to replace their thatched roofs with tiles with presumably serious consequences (for they resorted to painting metal to look like the desired tiles) was unpopular to those who could not afford it as well. The whole performance principle also seemed sketchy to me, for I find it hard to believe there was not more corruption that came into play when determining which companies should be given resources to prosper. The reading explicitly states that after Park’s rule, the “quality of life had not reached the levels of developed countries,” which is surprising considering South Korea’s economic success. All in all, yes South Korea significantly improved since Park’s rule, but at what social cost?
I thoroughly enjoyed this reading, and I now feel as though I understand the gravity of institutional barriers in understanding how some countries have been so successful while others have remained so trapped. Furthermore, I appreciated the authors’ mention of China’s export-led development strategy and internal structural transformation which we have been discussing in class. The article clearly demonstrated the success China experienced after it began focusing on the biggest possible market through exports in the 70s. I also found it extremely interesting just how influential an open policy with export-led growth strategy is on economic growth, for every single one of the ten fast-growing countries have adopted this plan. Additionally, while the article attributes much of China’s economic growth to an increase in exports, they imply that China’s utilization of Lewis’s Two-Sector Model played a significant role as well, specifically in providing a foundation China could build this new growth-strategy on. As we discussed, a focus on policies for rural industrialization in order to bring the marginal product of labor in the agrarian sector to zero is a crucial strategy for economic success.
Toggle Commented Sep 30, 2021 on For Friday's Discussion at Jolly Green General
I found it very interesting how economists chose to be so ignorant about loose ends when building their models from the 40s to the mid 70s, specifically pertaining to their inability to model economies with imperfect competition. I was surprised that they could continue producing models and publishing them despite these loose ends. Concepts like economies to scale and increasing returns to scale are so vital to one’s understanding of economics that I was shocked to see that they were dismissed although they had been speculated about at this time. It was really refreshing to see that, like in Fultz’s dishpan, thinking in terms of more simplified models consisting of assumptions is what is actually necessary in understanding the world, and that the main issue with economists throughout history was their inability to accept these simplifications and to look at the world through any lens other than that of perfect competition and constant returns. Overall, I found this article to be very intriguing and helpful in understanding the history of economic thinking.
Toggle Commented Sep 23, 2021 on Krugman for Friday at Jolly Green General
I found this article quite convincing of the SDGs’ effectiveness on meeting its goals after their implementation, especially after reading the section which broke down the MDGs shortcomings and showed how they would be utilized in planning out the SDGs and ensuring sufficient funding for them. However, recognizing that the article was written over five years ago, I wanted to see what progress has been made with the SDGs today and was disappointed to see that the SDGs have not been nearly as effective as I would have thought, if even at all. The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals Report in 2020 notes that although progress had been made in some sectors including maternal and child health, access to electricity, and women’s representation in government; issues like food shortages, biodiversity and habitat loss, and growing inequality have overshadowed any progress made. The report overall made the SDGs appear futile, and on top of that, also revealed an upward trend seen in poverty rates, unemployment, insufficient education, and limited access to nutrition after the COVID-19 outbreak ( All things considered, it appears as though the SDGs have fallen victim to inadequate funding and implementation and even an apparent lack of exposure, for although the article states that the SDGs should become widely recognized and esteemed, the only place I have ever discussed or even heard about the SDGs is in my environmental studies courses.
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Sep 15, 2021