This is a 2500 words case study: should apply environmental economics and one or more other framework covered in the unit (ecological economics, eco-Marxist, eco-feminist) to explore the nature of, and policy responses to, an environmental challenge linked to one of the following topics. You will find possible points of focus for each topic and a suggested structure on Blackboard.
1 Me and my car: are private modes of transport sustainable?
2 The future for fish/fishing
3 Water management for an increasingly thirsty world
4 The end of cheap food?
5 Resource depletion: Peak oil
6 Consumption and waste
7 Fossil fuels: can our reliance really be phased out?
8 Ecosystem services and the biodiversity crisis
Case studies will be assessed on the following criteria:
• Application of orthodox and radical theories to diagnose the nature of an environmental challenge
• Critical evaluation of the effectiveness of dominant policy/political responses and alternatives
• Use of empirical evidence to evaluate concepts and support claims
• Extent, depth and relevance of research
• Clarity of expression and development of a well-structured argument
• Proper and consistent referencing
Case study topics and suggested structure
1. Me and my car: are private modes of transport sustainable? – this topic could consider whether the design of more efficient/green cars is the most economically sustainable path for the future; or you could consider the merits of the arguments for full-cost pricing, and/or peak load pricing; or alternative collective forms of transportation.
2. The future for fish/fishing – this topic could explore a number of concerns such as the ecological sustainability of aquaculture as a source of fish for consumption; the emergence of ‘floating fishing factories’; property rights to prevent over-fishing; the dislocation of customary fishing practices with the advent of large-scale commercial fishing.
3. Water management for an increasingly thirsty world – there are a number of concerns that could be addressed by this topic including the rationing of water allocations; effectiveness of infrastructure arrangements to meet competing claims for water; structural pressures that compromise inland marine systems, including the preoccupation of the state with ensuring adequate water flows to guarantee commercial endeavors; privatisation for ‘efficient water allocation’.
4. The end of cheap food? Successive revolutions in agriculture have both delivered the cheap food that capitalism requires and moved our food production systems away from ecological sustainability. Recent food price spikes and the emergence of ‘superweeds’ suggest limits to current industrial agricultural models. Can new bio-technologies solve the problem, or do small-scale, collective or agro-ecological approaches offer a sustainable path forward?
5. Resource depletion: Peak oil – economic sustainability presumes continuity in the supply of essential energy resources or readily available substitutes. This topic could explore the proposition that our future economic wellbeing will be compromised by the limited resources of available oil reserves. The force of this argument could be considered, and whether more efficient use of this finite resource provides a safety valve, or a more radical restricting of patterns of consumption and production is required.
6. Consumption and waste – this topic could explore the environmental impacts of day-to-day life, the factors and issues affecting long-term and lasting changes to household consumption patterns and the waste arising, the contribution to be made by downsizing the ecological footprints of households and the forces which may seek to negate systemic and widespread change. Of particular interest may be Pope Francis’ 2015 Encyclical, ‘On care for our common home’, which places individualized consumer culture at the centre of its analysis of climate change and ecological crisis.
7. Fossil fuels: can our reliance really be phased out? – The G7 leaders support cutting ‘inefficient’ fossil fuel subsidies. Companies, financial institutions, universities and other organisations have commenced the divestment of investments in fossil fuels. This topic could consider the opposite interests of the debate and how these interests are reconciled by national governments and supranational organisations, the ramifications and implications of reducing support for fossil fuels, and whether national governments have sufficient control or will to move beyond political rhetoric.
8. ‘Ecosystem services’ and the biodiversity crisis: A large project funded by international organisations, national governments and multinational corporations, The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity, is responding to the biodiversity crisis by “making nature’s values visible”. This topic could analyse the notion of ‘ecosystem services’ by considering the success or otherwise of researchers in mapping the various ‘functions’ of ecological systems and quantifying this in dollar terms. It could then evaluate the efficacy of this approach in influencing policy making, such as various attempts to institute biodiversity offsetting to compensate the impacts of development on wetlands, woodlands or other ecologies.
Suggested structure for your Case Study:
▪ Introduction: set out the key economy-environment problem that defines the case study and your method for studying it, outlining your theoretical, empirical and policy focus.
▪ Theory: outline how environmental economics understands the nature and causes of the issue you are focusing on and contrast this with at least one alternative/radical perspective covered in the unit (ecological economics, eco-Marxist, eco-feminist).
▪ Policy: discuss the dominant policies for managing the problem you are focusing on, explaining how this is informed by theory, the various actors involved and the institutional mechanisms for implementation.
▪ Evaluation: assess the effectiveness of the policy/management strategy using clear criteria (it can be useful to contrast competing criteria derived from orthodox and radical perspectives here). Consider the integrity of the theory informing the design of policy, the ways in which the influence of the various stakeholders are played out and/or systemic or structural obstacles that might thwart policy success.
▪ Alternatives: discuss other (actual or proposed) policy options, management strategies or political movements that might be explored to address the problem in a different way, informed by your radical framework/s. Assess their potential effectiveness, including whether they overcome shortcomings in dominant policies
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▪ Conclusion: reflect on the ‘political economy’ of your case study (what is happening?; why?; who gains/who loses?; does it matter?; if so, what can be done about it, and by whom?).
Originally posted 2017-11-01 14:15:27.