Learning the ways of Environmental Economics

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   When I first heard the subject Resource Management and Accounting (SDS 203) in our Sustainable Development class, I get intimidated, simply because the word accounting is attached to it. I was a bit worried whether I’m going to pass the subject or not, since my undergraduate course has nothing to do with solving and numbers. Fortunately my initial impression was erroneous. The subject tackles the economic side of Sustainable Development (SD).

   According to its course description, SDS 203 “surveys the most critical topics in environmental economics. Economics - the science of how scarce resources are allocated is at the core of our most challenging environmental issues. In this world of increasing scarcity and competing demands, economic analysis can guide public policy to efficient use of resources. Market failures are at the root of many of our most serious environmental problems. Remedies include getting prices to reflect true costs, providing productive incentive structures, and explicitly valuing environmental amenities.” These are the topics that we have discussed in the class (as indicate in the course outline): 

· Introduction 

· When Is a Market Socially Optimal? Production and Consumption Externalities 

· Market Failure and Policy Instruments: Standards, Taxes and Subsidies 

· Policy Instrument Choice: Heterogeneity, Uncertainty 

· Waste Management, The Coase Theorem and Liability Rules 

· Technological Change and Pollution Control 

· Economics of Biodiversity and Endangered Species 

· Valuation of Environmental Benefits 

· Environmental and Health Risks 

· Water Allocation and Quality Policies, Animal Waste 

· Pesticide Economics, Biotechnology 

· Global Pollutants and International Environmental Agreements 

· Environment and Development; Concepts of Sustainable Development 

· LEARNING STRATEGIES/METHODOLOGIES: Modified Lecture/Independent Research 

   The topics mention above is all interesting. They are all important for sustainable living. For example, in our Market Failure, I realized that it is good to study this matter because you can forecast the possible scenarios in our economy. As defined, market failure is “a situation where free markets fail to allocate the resources efficiently”. Of the many possible sources of market failure – externalities, public goods and insufficient competition are most widely discussed. In the case of externalities (both positive & negative), I learned to appreciate more of its importance. “Externalities refer to the effects of producing or consuming a good whose impact on third parties other than buyers and sellers of the good is not reflected in the good’s price”. If market failure is purely dominated by self-interest, it could have a negative impact in the society. For example, in the Tobacco industry, a cigarette company sells cheap cigarettes to the consumers. Though it’s cheap, it cost a lot when a consumer gets hospitalized when he/she get illnesses in smoking cigarette. In societal point of view, the company is aiming for maximizing profit and not for the welfare of its consumers. In my reaction paper about Market Failure (submitted to Prof. Custodio last July 12, 2013), I stated that Market failure should understand not only to the economic theorist but also to the layman. In Philippine setting, the masses always blame the government about their condition. The lack of knowledge about the basic of economics can blind us about its real condition. Though the government sometimes makes a mess in the economy or the market always functions perfectly, we should take note that these two institutions are imperfect. So it is important to have knowledge about our economy to have better judgment and informed decisions. 

   I learned also to be more aware and responsible of my actions because it has an effect to the society and environment. For example, if I’m not responsible in disposing our household wastes (e.g. garbage) it can affect our surroundings. If I don’t practice the proper disposal of waste, it can affect the health of my family and community because the wastes that we produced would cause air and water pollution. 

   I am thankful that I enrolled in SD Studies in Mindanao State University-Graduate School Program. For me it is not a waste of time because I have learned (and continue to learn) many things. Before, when I was not a student of SD Studies, I did not fully appreciate its concept. I am aware of what’s happening in our world today, but that time it was not yet immerse into my system. I’m just a passive individual and I’m not doing or contributing solutions to our current problem. When I learn the principles of SD, I ask myself – How had we, all of us, let this happen? How could I, in my 24 years of existence, ignore the planet’s endless screams for my help? I felt embarrassed and ashamed. 

   In this time, we are using up irreplaceable resources at an alarming rate and poisoning our environment. It is timely to contribute to the solution to this problem. And because I have acquired knowledge of SD, I made a commitment to myself that I would change my daily habits for the better. I started small deeds because it has a large impact. For example, I avoid buying bottled water in sari-sari store or in the grocery. As I have research, there is an environmental cost on it. “It takes three to four times the amount of water in the bottle just to make the plastic for the bottle, and that’s not including how much oil is used and how much carbon dioxide is created when the water is shipped in the store.” And also plastic bottles are source of phthalates – “a group of petrochemicals that has been shown in animal studies to emasculate male offspring and to cause early puberty and reproductive malfunctions in females”. When water is heated in the bottle (thru direct sunlight exposure) or when it reuses, it released more phthalates. In short, bottled water is not only bad to the environment but also to our health. 

   Staying informed is a better way to address these problems in our environment because knowledge empowers informed action. Since I am a blogger/writer and filmmaker, I have the responsibility to educate the public about this matter. The knowledge that I acquire in studying Environmental Economics (or SD in general) is important to help those who do not understand and appreciate the importance of SD in our lives. 

   What a great experience enrolling in this subject (or this Master’s Degree in SD). I am looking forward to know more about Sustainable Development. With the end of the semester, I think we should apply, practice and share to the public what we have learned from class for sustainable living.

note: this article was submitted to Prof. Alfie Custodio for the the author's reaction/synthesis paper.

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