SUS 100 Midterm AYL Questions

Terms in this set (31)

A nation's economic situation will affect attitudes toward environmental issues. Providing food, shelter, and jobs to citizens might involve exploitation of resources. A limited supply of resources may drive prices up. A country may have to look for alternatives if demand exceeds supply and prices get too high. Economics may also dictate whether alternative environmentally friendly practices (such as recycling, solar energy, organic produce, and the like) are feasible. If a country has abundant resources, consumption may increase and waste may occur. In many places, clean water may be abundant, which could encourage misuse. A renewable resource such as water could become scarce if demand exceeds Earth's capacity to renew it. Culture and religion can also affect attitudes toward environmental issues. If a culture has certain food or shelter preferences, for instance, this may deplete particular resources (such as land for vegetation or cattle grazing, and/or forests for wood shelters and cooking). In many places, Earth may be an integral part of religion. For instance, it is important in Aboriginal culture to take long walks in natural areas for spiritual renewal. Political ideology and laws can affect attitudes toward environmental issues as well. Taxing polluting industries and subsidizing environmentally friendly industries can aid in the protection of natural resources. Subsidies for research on alternative fuels and water conservation can discourage waste of fossil fuels and water. Laws can protect natural places from development. Politicians have different views on environmental issues based on political party, who lives in their districts, and what industries and resources are in their districts. Different politicians can set different policies based on these factors, which can either harm or protect the environment.
Neoclassical economists believe that economic growth is essential for maintaining social order. They do and also importantly believe that human behavior in terms of demand for products at specific prices will determine environmental impacts. Simply stated, if the product costs too much to buy, less will be manufactured since less are bought and companies will find cheaper (and presumably less resource damaging) ways to produce the goods. This is the heart of supply and demand curves of the "invisible hand".

Environmental economists, on the other hand, believe economic growth may be unsustainable. If we reduce our demand for resources and make resource use far more efficient, however, they believe we can reach sustainability within our current economic system.

Ecological economists believe human societies should not expect unlimited economic growth. Unlike neoclassical and environmental economists, ecological economists believe we must maintain stable economies, ones that do not shrink or grow.

There are four assumptions of neoclassical economics that contribute to environmental degradation. The first being that natural resources and human resources are infinite or largely substitutable or interchangeable, they are being treated as free grifts of nature. This we know to be untrue, many resources we currently use are non-renewable sources that will eventually run out like fossil fuels or coal. Another being that costs and benefits are exclusive to buyer and seller alone. External costs are not considered. Because the external costs are not considered, negative effects on the land and nearby communities like contaminated water supplies go unnoticed.
Neoclassical economics also discounts future effects, which encourages policymakers to play down the long-term consequences. Because of this, many of the things being done now will create problems years from now, like non-degradable waste sitting in landfills. And lastly, it is assumed that economic growth will alleviate the discontent of the poor. Sociologists use the word affluenza to explain people in poverty may feel less happy as the gap between the rich and poor widens.
Environmental policy is policy that pertains to our interactions with our environment. The main goal of environmental policy is to regulate resource use or reduce pollution to promote human welfare and/or protect natural systems. Tragedy of the commons is the process by which publicly accessible resources open to unregulated use tend to become damaged and depleted through overuse. Those who use the resources are motivated by self-interest and have no incentive to take care of the source, thus the source then becomes depleted. It is especially problematic for resources like underground water and air that apparently have no easy means to assign responsibility.
Although it may be beneficial for companies to dispose of waste a certain way, it may have negative externalities on others. For example, fracking is the method of retrieving natural gas from the earth's surface. Fracking uses chemically saturated water to release the gas. However, after the fracking is completed, the chemical and water mixture is then pumped back into the ground. This pollutes nearby water supplies and in turn creates a negative externality for nearby communities.
Environmental policy should focus on more problems like the one previously mentioned. If those who deplete earths open pasture of resources are not held responsible or given restrictions, earth's resources will soon deplete. There needs to be more of a focus on polluted-pay principles, which is when parties are responsible for covering the costs of pollution they caused.