ECON 340 Environmental Economics Course Guide

Course Description

An examination of how the natural environment is affected by the economic activities of society, and the physical and biological limitations imposed on the economy by the natural environment. Particular areas examined include the use of non-renewable natural resources, market failures, economic methods for analyzing pollution, cost/benefit analysis, the impact of population growth, and the values implicit in free market economies toward the natural environment.

Assessable Learning Objectives

  1. An increased factual understanding of a range of local, regional, and international environmental issues (i.e. the attainment of basic environmental literacy);
  2. Capabilities in explaining the underlying economic reasons why environmental problems are inevitable in modern economies supporting a world population exceeding 6 billion;
  3. Aptitude in applying alternative ethical criteria to suggest policy responses to environmental problems.
  4. Demonstration of the ability to apply economic and environmental principles to a local or campus environmental issue.

Course Outline

  • Population and environmental sustainability, with contemporary applications
  • Economic and environmental justice; notions of equity
  • Energy use and energy accounting
  • Special topic (e.g. environmental issues with water use)
  • Completion of course project on application of economic and environmental principles to a local or campus environmental issue.
  • Economic basis for environmental problems: externalities, open access, and public goods
  • Economic evaluation of alternative environmental policies

Recommended Teaching Methodology

A primary objective in teaching this class is to engage students in active learning and critical thinking about environmental and economic concepts.

The primary method of teaching will likely stress interactive lecture and class discussion. Presentations should clarify and amplify text material, providing students with the opportunity to engage in discussion regarding course topics. Instructors should seek to limit the amount of lecturing in the traditional sense, where text material is repeated in a different format.

Secondary methods include the discussion of relevant articles and cases that provide examples and insight into economic perspectives on environmental problems and policy. Articles and cases may be assigned for oral and/or written presentation and discussion. Group work may also be used to reinforce economic concepts and problem solving skills. A major writing assignment will stressed.

Small group (2-3 student) presentations will be used to emphasize both instructor and student developed material.

Recommended Assessment Measures

Regular assessment serves at least four objectives within this course. First, assessment provides feedback to students on their achievement and shortcomings while a course is underway. Second, assessment may provide an incentive for students to actively engage and study course material. Third, assessment is the process by which student evaluation is quantified for purposes of course grades. Finally, assessment provides feedback to the faculty on student achievement of course objectives. Design of assessment measures for the course should satisfy each of these objectives.

1. The primary method for assessing the attainment of knowledge is expected to be periodic and final exams. Exams must be designed to assess the student’s level of understanding and ability to discuss material, from the text and class discussions, that is directly related to the learning objectives.

2. Short written assignments and quizzes (reports and problem sets) may be utilized to achieve and assess the attainment of learning objectives. Criteria for evaluating written assignments should be clearly identified and explained by the professor.

3. Student reports. A major student project will be expected. The written product will provide evidence of the degree to which objective 4 is satisfied.


Statement of Expectations

Students should expect that the average weekly workload in this course would be three hours in class plus a minimum of six hours of studying and assignment preparation. It is expected that students ill address issues of science and economics with equal vigor. Environmental literacy, which includes increasing knowledge of central scientific findings and theories is central to the course.

It is not easy material -- economics is inherently difficult, especially in a very competitive environment. Most of the learning that will take place will not happen in the classroom. Students should understand that most learning takes place when they are working on the material outside of class, when they are reading, thinking critically, analyzing, and applying concepts and techniques. The amount that students learn and the level of skill that is developed will be directly related to the amount of effort that is expended. Classes are opportunities to discuss and apply the material, and to develop communication and leadership skills. They are also opportunities for professors to provide insight, to help students attain understanding, and for the evaluation of performance.

Prerequisite Knowledge and Skills

The most important prerequisites are an interest in the subject, a willingness to commit the necessary resources in terms of time and intellectual effort, and a desire to actively participate in the learning process. Formally, ECON 101 is a prerequisite. This course will require a challenging mix of analytic, quantitative, and communication skills. Students should be prepared to deal extensively with the graphs, algebraic concepts, and detailed technical language. Students having concerns about their level of preparation should see their instructor.

Institutional Mechanism for Providing Feedback for Continuous Quality Improvement

Individual professors teaching this course will evaluate each student based on course objectives. Performance assessments will be summarized and reported to the department head or a designate, with separate assessments for relevant learning outcomes. Performance assessments from multiple sections and professors will be compiled into a single comparative report. This report will be utilized for periodic evaluation of ECON 102. The fundamental objective of reviewing student outcomes across course sections is to provide regular feedback for improving instructional effectiveness.