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the entire area of land from which water drains into a given river

transboundary watershed

a watershed that crosses a political boundary


US-owned factories on the Mexican side of the border


the study of how we decide to use scarce resources to satisfy the demand for goods & services


a social system that converts resources into goods & services


a material commodity manufactured for & bought by individuals & businesses


work done for others as a form of business

subsistence economy

a survival economy. one in which people meet most or all of their daily needs directly from nature & don't purchase or trade for most of life's necessities

capitalist market economy

an economy in which buyers & sellers interact to determine which goods & services to produce, how much of them to produce, & how to distribute them

centrally planned economy

state socialist economy; an economy in which a nation's government determines how to allocate resources in a top-down manner

mixed economy

an economy that combines elements of a capitalist market economy & state socialism

ecosystem service

an essential service an ecosystem provides that supports life & makes economic activity possible (e.g. ecosystems naturally purify air & water, cycle nutrients, provide for plants to be pollinated by animals, & serve as receptacles & recycling systems for the waste generated by our economic activity)

Adam Smith

1723-1790; Scottish philosopher known as the father of classical economics; believed that when people are free to pursue their own economic self-interest in a competitive marketplace, the marketplace will behave as if guided by "an invisible hand" that ensures that their actions will benefit society as a whole

classical economics

founded by Adam Smith; the study of the behavior of buyers & sellers in a free-market economy; holds that individuals acting in their own self-interest may benefit society, provided that their behavior is constrained by the rule of law & by private property rights & operates within competitive markets

neoclassical economics

a theory of economics that explains market prices in terms of consumer preferences for units of particular commodities; buyers desire the lowest possible price, whereas sellers desire the highest possible price- this conflict between buyers & sellers results in a compromise price being reached & the "right" quantity of commodities being bought & sold


the amount of a product offered for sale at a given price


the amount of a product people will but at a given price if free to do so

cost-benefit analysis

a method commonly used by neoclassical economists, in which estimated costs for a proposed action are totaled & then compared to the sum of benefits estimated to result from the action


the way material goods often fail to bring contentment to people affluent enough to afford them

ecological economists

argue that civilizations don't overcome their environmental limitations in the long run

steady-state economy

an economy that doesn't grow or shrink but remains stable

environmental economists

tend to agree that economies are unsustainable if population growth isn't reduced & resources aren't used more efficiently; we can accomplish these changes & attain sustainability within our current economic systems

nonmarket value

a value that's not usually included in the price of a good or service

market failure

the failure of markets to take into account the environment's positive effects on economies (e.g. ecosystem services) or to reflect the negative effects of economic activity on the environment & thereby on people (external costs)


a rule or guideline that directs individual, organizational, or societal behavior

public policy

policy that's made by governments, including those at the local, state, federal, & international levels; it consists of legislation, regulations, orders, incentives, & practices intended to advance societal welfare

environmental policy

public policy that pertains to human interactions with the environment; generally aims to regulate resource use or reduce pollution to promote human welfare &/or protect natural systems

free rider

a party that fails to invest in controlling pollution or carrying out other environmentally responsible activities & instead relies on the efforts of other parties to do so (e.g. a factory that fails to control its emissions)


statutory law


a specific rule issued by an administrative agency, based on the more broadly written statutory law passed by Congress & enacted by the president

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

a US law enacted on Janary 1, 1970, that created an agency called the Council on Environmental Quality & required that an environmental impact statement be prepared for any major federal action

environmental impact statement (EIS)

a report of results from detailed studies that assesses the potential effects on the environment that would likely result from development projects or other actions undertaken by the government

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

an administrative agency created by executive order in 1970; it is charged with conducting & evaluating research, monitoring environmental quality, setting standards, enforcing those standards, assisting the states in meeting standards, & goals, & educating the public

customary law

international law that arises from long-standing practices held in common by most cultures

conventional law

international law that arises from treaties that nations agree to enter into

North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)

promotes commerce & allows industries & corporations to weaken environmental protection laws if they view them as barriers to trade

United Nations (UN)

organization founded in 1945 to promote international peace & to cooperate in solving international economic, social, cultural, & humanitarian problems

World Bank

institution founded in 1944 that serves as one of the globe's largest sources of funding for economic development, including such major projects as dams, irrigation infrastructure, & other undertakings

European Union (EU)

political & economic organization formed after WWII to promote Europe's economic & social progress

World Trade Organization (WTO)

organization based in Geneva that represents multinational corporations & promotes free trade by reducing obstacles to international commerce & enforcing fairness among nations in trading pracices


an approach to protecting the environment that sets strict legal limits & threatens punishment for violations of those limits


a government incentive (a giveaway of cash or publicly owned resources, or a tax break) intended to encourage a particular activity

green tax

a levy on environmentally harmful activities & products aimed at providing a market-based incentive to correct for market failure


the practice of designating on a product's label how the product was grown, harvested, or manufactured, so that consumers buying it are aware of the processes involved & can differentiate between brands that use processes believed to be environmentally beneficial (or less harmful than others) & those that don't

public-private partnership

a for-profit entity takes charge of performing the work while operating within confines agreed upon with a public entity that acts as an overseer

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