Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Air Pollution Externalities

All of London is suffering from low air quality. The damage to children is particularly acute. Yes, the problem is hard to solve because both the cause and the damage are diffuse, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't act!

***Update: I was going to make this a separate post, but it's too similar to this one! 1 in 6 deaths in 2015 is linked to pollution, and most of them to air pollution. That's crazy! That's three times more than AIDS, TB, and malaria combined.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Tolls and traffic

Nice example of the impacts of tolls in British Columbia, where the removal of a toll increased traffic by 24%. The elasticity homework problems almost write themselves!

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Land conservation

A land conservation game? It must show the tradeoffs between limiting development and preserving land? Hopefully I'll remember to try to get it before I teach Resources again!

Monday, August 21, 2017

GMOs, farming, and suicide

Activist Vandana Shiva, a Ph.D. with a strong voice that has risen to the defense of India and Indian farmers in particular for decades, has long blamed GMOs for increases in farmer suicides. For example, on her page she writes, "300,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide, trapped in vicious cycles of debt and crop failures, 84% of these suicides are attributed directly to Monsanto’s Bt cotton."

While GMOs have problems, mostly associated with the extent to which they support modern industrial monocropping-based agriculture, this doesn't seem to be a fair criticism. Keith Kloor takes the position down quite thoroughly here, starting from the numbers themselves and looking into their basis. Another study, recently published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Global Health (and summarized here, since the original paper is behind a pay wall) finds no evidence to support the claim.

Farmers around the world can be at higher risk for suicide, in part because of "the nature of their work, which can be isolating, financially precarious, and physically demanding." The world needs farmers! Perhaps the key is to provide more support for their mental health rather than attacking some of the technologies they use.

Externalities of automobiles

Nice summary by UC Berkeley's Max Aufhammer...

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Update on food waste

This past semester I again had a group of students choose to look at the issue of food waste. This article is an update on the topic.

Yet another article by Marc Bellemare appeared a few days later in the Wall Street Journal, based on a paper he published in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics. One point he makes is that some loss is inevitable, and that working hard to stop all waste is effort that might go to a more productive use.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Environmental footprints

After Obama was elected, businesses thought that environmental regulations were coming. Pepsi/ Tropicana researched the carbon footprint of orange juice, finding that fertilizers were the biggest part of the impact. Now, eight years later, I see the second footprint analysis, finding again that for a food product (in this case bread) the impact of fertilizer comprises 40% of the impact. That far outweighs transportation, packaging, and all other individual part of the story.

A few questions: first, why are these analyses still so rare? The more recent one was done by academic researchers, highlighting the answer to my question: government doesn't require them. I guess it's like the gun lobby banning research on guns- if you don't hear about it, it must not be a real issue. Second, how about that fertilizer? That's really a problem: it's come up big in two studies. I wonder what % of food's carbon footprint is attributable to fertilizer? As Lamar Odom used to say, "Not small!"