30 Apr 2014

Anything but water

  1. The key to success is not ignoring failure but learning from it (listen to this podcast)

  2. Use this willingness-to-pay calculator to divide rooms (and rent) among roommates

  3. Crony Republicans are weakening aid to foreigners and increasing the price of domestic energy by protecting the US-shipping cartel. Pathetic

  4. Gaming incentives: Saudi start ups can't get funding because 93 percent of investments are in real estate, which has excellent returns. Why? Land use regulations promote sprawl over infill. Commuters, renters and the environment lose

  5. A majority of Kitimat voters oppose the Northern Gateway pipeline that will bring oil to their coastal city. The pipeline should be popular ("jobs"), but there are 10 opponents to the pipeline for every promised job. (Local "jobs" benefits equal 0.2 percent of the pipeline's $6.5 billion cost.) Will BC's government listen?
Hattip to AA

29 Apr 2014

Thank you Vancouver!

Cornelia and I moved to Vancouver last August because we wanted to be on the west coast of North America, while remaining in Canada. That meant Vancouver, a city with a big -- and mostly deserved -- reputation.

I wanted the chill-coffee-cannabis "culture" I grew up with in San Francisco and Berkeley. Cornelia wanted to discover the sustainable side of her country (she's from Calgary, known for floating on oil). We expected to find that people would be more friendly/accessible than the Dutch of Amsterdam, due to our cultural and linguistic overlaps. We expected that we'd get the kinder, gentler side of North America. We expected to find people on the cutting edge of the good life.

On most measures, we got what we expected, but the package was not enough to keep us from moving back to Amsterdam, and our move back here last week confirmed our hunch. It's harder to find friends and socialize in Amsterdam, but the quality of public life and public policy here means that we prefer to struggle with our personal lives while enjoying the public life around us.

But this post is more of an appreciation than a critique.

First, I'd prefer to live in Vancouver than any other city in North America, as it combines Canadian decency with west coast quality of life and friendliness.

Second, we found a wonderful group mix of people around East Vancouver (similar to Haight-Ashbury when I was growing up or SOMA today in SF) who were fun for talking, beer brewing, and taking a stand. These are the people I'd love to see over here in Amsterdam.

Third, Vancouver (and Canada in general) is pretty functional in terms of public services, transportation, work and affordability. This may be crazy to say in a city where the average house costs $1.2 million, but there are plenty of cracks for less-well-off to live in :)

Finally, we had a great time in the eight months we were there. Some of that had to do with our aggressive socialization, but a lot had to do with the fact that density of the "right people" is pretty high in Vancouver.

We don't regret coming back to Amsterdam because it has a more human environment, and we're lucky to have the EU passports that make it simple to live and work here legally, but we enjoyed the best of North America. I'm not sure if that continent will achieve Old World sophistication and sustainability in my lifetime, but at least we've seen what's possible.

Bottom Line: Vancouver is awesome if you want to resettle in North America, but it's not obvious that Vancouverites realize they can do better.* We're happy to see you in Amsterdam if you want to see the possibilities :)
* Suggestions: raise the price of resources (land, energy) to reduce consumption and sprawl, improve public services to reduce inequality. I'd prefer the Dutch version of cheap booze and expensive driving to the Canadian version of expensive booze and cheap driving. It's better to get drunk with neighbors than steam in traffic.

28 Apr 2014

Monday funnies

I'm back in Amsterdam (very good move) and ran across these guys on the way to a party for King's Day:

Stone-cold Cold-forged drunk?

Speed blogging

  1. Ed Dolan wrote a great review of Living with Water Scarcity

  2. Some details on the Pacific Garbage Patch plastic miasma (no good news)

  3. Local officials in Edmonton, Alberta say that climate change will raise flooding costs by $4 per year per household. No biggie, so let's keep that oil flowing, eh?

  4. The Saudi government just opened the world's largest desalination plant ($7+ billion cost; capacity of 1 million cubic meters/day). Using a rough guess of costs of $1/m3 and tariffs of $0.10/m3, it looks like they are planning to lose money on every unit but make it up on volume. I'll be drinking some of that water in a few days.

  5. Robert Stavins protests at the IPCC's gutting of the climate change summary. Seems that governments don't want to admit they have done little -- despite 20+ years of meetings -- to address climate change. Too bad for use, given that's government's main job

25 Apr 2014

Friday party!


Speed blogging

  1. "The thematic page ‘The Underground Drought’ contains videos, webinars, resources, links, discussions, articles and blog posts related to groundwater and is in need of your comment, your opinion, your knowledge, and, last but not least, your videos. What has led to the underground drought? What is being done and what can be done to address it? By whom? Add to the discussion on The Water Channel"

  2. An excellent post advocating a flexible approach to providing water to the poor in LDCs

  3. "California's water wars reach 'new level of crazy' this year" -- they need more markets and prices and less laws and lobbying

  4. Another article on the Dutch teaching Americans how to live with water instead of fighting it

  5. An idealistic government's prohibition on science buries citizens under landslides

  6. A good overview on watershed protection as a means of improving water quality
Hattips to CD and RM

24 Apr 2014

Learn a little bit more about my book

...by watching this video:

(On the way to Amsterdam...)

23 Apr 2014

Bottom up trust

The trouble with people is that they are unreliable.

Most of us will not waste paper towels in the publish bathroom washroom, but the few who do make it necessary to install "paper rationing devices" that rarely work. The Canadian one here, luckily, can be opened from the top without a key when it (inevitably) breaks:

Wait. Unlocked? Yes, indeed, that Canadians sometimes find it's better to put a little more trust in people than Americans. That's what stopped me at this post-barrier in the road.

It is secured only by a nut and bolt (really hard to see that, except you DON'T see a huge lock). Anyone with some time can remove the bolt and post. Maybe that's a firetruck or city vehicle -- or perhaps someone who just *needs* to get by. People are trusted to not abuse the option.

Go Canada.

22 Apr 2014

Anything but water

  1. "Save the world, work less" means less consumption (by production) at work, lower earnings, and less consumption at home. It also means you may be happier, since you'll have less work, less stuff and more free time. A nice complement to my essay on the destructive side of the GDP-fetish

  2. A cool illustration of how Americans die

  3. Regulators need to raise insurance requirements for shipping oil by rail if they want fewer spills

  4. A map of where nobody lives in the US

  5. Two useful summaries: most of economic theory in 365 words and rules for students and teachers
Hattip to LK

21 Apr 2014

Monday funnies

This is oh-fuck funny:

How poor are graduate students?

As a PhD student at UC Davis, I had my tuition forgiven ($10k) and a salary of $18k/year as a teaching or research assistant. I could pay the rent and buy food (and wine!) fairly easily, but then I saw this on the wall at Simon Fraser University:

So, now I am wondering if other PhD students cannot afford to live on their stipends.

This question is not the same as that facing masters students (who seem to be cash cows for universities, i.e., they usually pay fees and get no salary) or undergraduates who are encouraged to study "whatever feels right" at schools that may have great dorm food and no interest in their future careers, debt or knowledge (read this reddit conversation).


18 Apr 2014

Friday party!

This video shows the triple point (gas-liquid-solid) of an unknown substance.

Anything but water

  1. Yes, it's a conspiracy: tax software companies lobby against US tax simplification

  2. Uh oh update: average temps will increase 4-5C with business as usual (i.e., reality). In related news, Al Qaeda has decided that the fastest way to destroy America is by inaction: we're screwing up without their help

  3. Solar vendors worry about "uncertainty" due to subsides. Their solution? Permanent subsidies

  4. Saudi Arabia will spend $1 trillion to double energy supplies... that are sold below cost. I bet they could save money (twice) by raising prices to reduce demand and the need for extra capacity (even if KSA has double the solar installations of Germany)

  5. Meanwhile, in Canada:
    Remediation of soil and water contaminated by petroleum hydrocarbons (PHCs) will cost almost $41 billion... "the estimated magnitude of remediation work associated with PHC contaminated sites is projected to exceed the current annual capacity of the remediation industry by more than 57 times... The largest PHC contaminated site liabilities are in the provinces with large upstream oil and gas industries; those provinces also have relatively small remediation industries.” It concludes that since the cost of restoring polluted land would often be higher than the value of the land itself, “there is no net monetizable benefit to the economy as a whole associated with the remediation of a contaminated site.”
    Or, as the Onion would say: don't bother to clean up land that's not worth anything

17 Apr 2014

Biased nexes, damned dams and abusive infrastructure

Each of these elements can be mismanaged due to missing information.

Some people want to manage the "nexus" of energy and water, but those sectors overlap and affect other sectors, such as environment, food, transportation, urban setting, and so on.

A failure to include other relevant interactions will result in surprise outcomes when management targets an optimal nexus of water and energy.

Those outcomes will turn into outright failure and destruction if interest groups are allowed to manipulate nexus targets to meet their narrow interests (e.g., corn ethanol was supposed to deliver green energy, but the carbon footprint and water consumption/pollution were high; places that integrated sustainable water demand into ethanol production left off food impacts, etc.) The main problem here is that interest groups can propose management goals and rules that favor them and -- because the nexus has higher priority -- harm other sectors.

I suggest separately managing water and energy while tracking the impacts on all other sectors. None should receive precedence.

Dams can be mismanaged in the same way if they target water storage or energy generation without considering other sectors such as environmental flows, small-scale irrigators, floods, etc. Dams can be useful but we need to manage all their costs, cash and non-cash.

All infrastructure, in fact, falls into this category when it comes to understanding costs and benefits. Roads, dams, ports, and canals have permanent and durable impacts on neighboring communities. Those impacts should be gathered into the "infra-shed" (abusing the notion of a watershed), so that benefits and costs are listed, calculated and allocated among locals. The worst projects are those with great distances between those who pay (e.g., US taxpayers) and those who benefit (CVP or CAP farmers).

Bottom Line: All politics are local, and so are costs and benefits. Locals should pay for the local benefits they receive.

16 Apr 2014

Speed blogging

Still getting caught up, after the book launch and teaching...
  1. Engineers use smarter sensors to test quality and reduce system leaks. Now they only need manager motivated to reduce leaks

  2. Fleck discusses the Bureau of Reclamation's "option" to pay attention to endangered species and puts the "minute 319 pulse" release of water into the Colorado River Delta into perspective (figure). That "environmental experiment" is tiny compared to irrigator diversions that drain the river 98 percent of the time

  3. Brian Richter (of the Nature Conservancy) discusses sources and uses of water in the US. Insightful

  4. Hanak et al. suggest a route to reforming groundwater management in California. Can we get going on this?

  5. Daniel Connell (a governance expert from ANU) critiques (unsustainable and unfair) water management in the Murray-Darling. The response is worth reading

  6. Alibaba (the eBay of China) brings cheap water quality testing to the people in a brilliant, bottom-up move to pressure authorities to address pollution

15 Apr 2014

Living with Water Scarcity, in paperback, on Amazon

I set at price of $10 for the paperback (Kindle and PDF are $5), but Amazon lowered it to $9.00.

That subsidy encourages you to buy the book.

This blog post encourages your to read it.

Here's a Wordle made from words in the book (click for larger).

(I like reading sentences like "different flows may get farmers prices." What's yours?

Do you understand the VALUE of water?

There are lots of footprint calculators, statistics on use and conservation devices available, but some people still fail to understand (or feel they do not understand) the value of water.

I appreciate the value after many stays in many places where there was zero water or water of unhealthy quality.

DC suggests this approach to helping people understand the value of water to them:
Instead of writing down flushes and glasses of water I "challenged" people to turn off their water at say 10 PM, turn it on in the morning for early ablutions and off again, etc., using water to do things but then turn off again for the next 24 hours. (My guess maybe on/off five six times).

Even interested parties would rather keep track of flushes, brushes, and washes. Just to notice use, but the going downstairs was too annoying...
As I said to an NPR reporter on the Charleston, W VA, spill:
West Virginia residents have -- at least temporarily -- flipped to a Third World experience of water. The real cost isn't just the bottled water and the paper plates. It's the time spent getting basic needs met.

"In the developing world, young girls don't go to school because they spend their entire lives gathering water," he says.
Bottom Line: The value of water depends on how much you have.

For an exceptional exploration of the abuse of "free water," see this (via DR)

(We've got an awesome community here!)

14 Apr 2014

Monday funnies?

This is funny in a pathetic way.*

Now I know that you looked at terrorism first, but just re-read that and try to understand WTF it's saying. Form 1116? Wow. Surreal.

* I'm so tired of the BS-bureaucratic corruption in the US. I tried to visit a friend in Washington State a few days ago but turned back at the ridiculous border crossing. What kind of country is this? The "economy" of Department of Homeland Security is double the size, per capita, of the economy of Luxembourg, home to the richest people in the world. This means -- I just realized -- that DHS is spending our money at a rate that even les Luxembourgeois would see as ridiculous.

Anything but water

  1. Check out these tools (this or different interface) to understand who is -- or who should -- pay to prevent climate change

  2. Ha-Joon Chang continues to eloquently explain why many economists are wearing no clothes

  3. Canadian environmental minister tries (and fails) to assure that new government policy does not allow oil/gas exploration in parks. (Perhaps the minister has failed to notice she's dealing with the Wild Boar party!)

  4. I really enjoy reading The Anti-Planner for insights and example of where government goes wrong. The most common example is using public money to fund private goods, such as light rail systems. This exceptional post explains why this problem is getting worse:
    Funding agencies out of user fees keeps agency officials in touch with their mission of serving those users. As a result, they tend to make decisions that make the users happy without irritating anyone else, such as taxpayers who might otherwise have to subsidize those users.

    At some point, however, user fees aren’t enough. In the case of Muni, politicians interfered with the agency’s ability to increase fares or reduce costs by replacing rails with buses. They also demanded that Muni pay the highest wages in the industry. Eventually, Muni required subsidies to keep afloat.

    In the case of the Port Authority, bridge tolls brought in so much cash that politicians insisted on diverting some of the money to subsidize subways, buses, and even the World Trade Center, a giant ego project that was totally unnecessary given that Manhattan had a surplus in office space when it was built.

    In the case of the Forest Service, Congress diverted a significant portion of the agency’s revenues to counties, so that many counties ended up getting many times what they would have received in taxes had the forests been private. Meanwhile, Congress also restricted the agency’s ability to charge fair market value for most of the goods and services it offered.

    For whatever reason, eventually all these agencies became dependent on federal, state, or local appropriations. When that happened, the missions of the agencies became muddy. Was the goal of transit agencies to move people or to pay fat wages to transit union members and award giant contracts to rail builders? Was PATH’s goal to smoothly operate the region’s transportation systems or to build monuments for state governors? Was the Forest Service’s goal to provide sound land management for a wide range of forest users or to cater to the most politically powerful users?
Published at on 4/14/14 at 4:14 :) H/T to CD

11 Apr 2014

Friday party!

This is cool, but there are many more here

Do people use less water due to non-price signals?

Yes, says Paul Ferraro, who sent me a slew of papers with the following introduction:*
  1. Ferraro and Price (2013) in ReStat [pdf] measures average effects of three treatments and looks at heterogeneous responses in a really coarse way.
  2. Ferraro et al. (2011) in AER P&P [pdf] looks at persistence of effects for another couple of years (only the social comparison nudge effect persists)
  3. Ferraro and Miranda (2013) REE [pdf] looks more deeply/carefully at heterogeneity (wealthy users, heavy water users and homeowners respond most to the social comparison nudge) and tries to illuminate the mechanisms (e.g., changes come from outdoor water use and, most likely, behavioral changes rather than tech investment).
  4. Bernedo et al. in JCP [pdf] pushes persistence farther (2007-2013) and generates more evidence about mechanisms (does a bit better job than the REE by showing that nudges affect the homeowner behavior, not any capital investments in the home)
  5. Bolsen et al. in AJPS [pdf] looks at effects conditional on political attributes of the households (the most interesting, in my view, is that Republicans and Democrats respond equally to the nudge).
I suggest you read these AFTER you read my book :)

* Here are the formal references:
  1. Ferraro, PJ, M Price. 2013. "Using Non-pecuniary Strategies to Influence Behavior: evidence from a large-scale field experiment." The Review of Economics and Statistics 95(1): 64-73.
  2. Ferraro, PJ, JJ Miranda, M Price. 2011. "Persistence of Treatment Effects with Norm-based Policy Instruments: evidence from a randomized environmental policy experiment." American Economic Review: papers and proceedings 101(3): 318–22.
  3. Ferraro, PJ, JJ Miranda. 2013. "Heterogeneous Treatment Effects and Causal Mechanisms in Non-pecuniary, Information-based Environmental Policies: evidence from a large-scale field experiment." Resource and Energy Economics 35: 356-379.
  4. Bernedo, M, PJ Ferraro, M Price. "The Persistent Impacts of Norm-based Messaging and their Implications for Water Conservation." Working paper (under review).
  5. Bolsen, T, PJ Ferraro, JJ Miranda. 2014. "Are Voters More Likely to Contribute to Other Public Goods? Evidence from a Large-Scale Randomized Policy Experiment." The American Journal of Political Science 58(1): 17-30.

10 Apr 2014

Tags anyone?

Does anyone use (click on or read) tags on posts? I've been using them for awhile but I will drop them if they're useless to you all.

Speaking of "useful" -- I've added thumbs up/down boxes to posts. Use those!

Anything but water

  1. The Chinese government plans to use markets to reduce pollution, but Nadia, my 482 student, says carbon markets in China have a way to go...

  2. Want a livable city? Get rid of the freeways!

  3. A teenager figures out how the US Government can save $130million/year on toner. Will bureaucrats or taxpayers care more?

  4. The Saudi government arrests three people for protesting their poverty in public. Interesting

  5. California regulators are refunding carbon revenues to customers (good!), but business refunds are tied to use (bad!)

  6. Biometric ID is very successful in India (reducing corruption, improving customer service). Maybe the US can get past fears of Satan to adopt national IDs

9 Apr 2014

Lookin good!

I got some copies express mailed to Vancouver. I'm happy to see -- and feel -- the final, printed product :)

You can be too -- buy here!

So how about those student blog posts?

Six weeks ago, I started posting 80 blog posts from students in third-year class on resource economics at Simon Fraser University.

I had students write and comment on posts as a means of learning how to write and think in public. You may have noticed that some posts are not as good as others, but there's no way to avoid quality problems. The only things that get done are the things that get started...

So... please comment on this process and give general advice on how students can improve their posts.

8 Apr 2014

Are hybrid cars cleaner?

Ka Fung Cheung writes:*

Greenhouse gas emissions is one of the most concerned environmental problems among our society. In many cities, the largest contributor of GHG emissions is the usage of vehicles. In respond to this, car companies develop hybrid vehicles. The global sales of the Toyota Prius reached 3 million in June 2013. However, some research suggests that the production of a hybrid car requires more energy than a conventional car. As a result, the production of hybrid cars generate more GHG. But, when we look at the life-cycle of a hybrid car and a conventional car, the overall carbon footprint of a hybrid car is still less than a conventional car’s. Toyota introduced a plug-in hybrid in 2012. The car has a larger battery and can drive 10-20 miles more with zero carbon emissions. However, this plug-in hybrid requires electricity, and the carbon footprint of the car depends on how the electricity is generated. If the electricity is generated from coal rather than natural gas, the hybrid car actually leaves more carbon footprint than a conventional car.

Bottom Line: Government should motivate the use of hybrid vehicles in order to reduce GHG emissions. Also, they should set up policy to shift the coal-based electricity generation to natural gas or other sustainable energy source.

* These guest posts are from students in my resource economics class at Simon Fraser University. Please leave feedback on their logic, ideas and style and suggestions of how to improve.

Fewer Candles for High Quality Air

Cem Satvan writes:*

I am a person who likes designing his house fashionable. At the same time, smell and lightning are the most important part of home designing as much as furniture. Thus, colourful, sweet-smelling candles are placed all around my living room to create nice atmosphere. However, I realized that as deodorants and incense do, candles have harmful effect on air, which is a crucial life source. A burning candle leads carbon emission that leads air pollution because paraffin candles are made of petroleum. In detail, it produces pollutants such as benzene, styrene, acetone and other bad toxics. Therefore, the best idea is minimalizing its utilization or not even thinking as an option to protect air quality. Either, 100% soy candles may be a good alternative, if candles are important for you in order to create romantic atmosphere for special moments. Soy candles are more preferable because it made of natural-based oil, so it does not concern paraffin or other toxics.

Bottom Line: Paraffin candles lead air pollution by emitting carbon gasses.

* These guest posts are from students in my resource economics class at Simon Fraser University. Please leave feedback on their logic, ideas and style and suggestions of how to improve.

Reduce Transportation Pollution

S writes:*

As we all know, air is a non-excludable and non-rival public resource. As a result, a tremendous amount of vehicle waste is emitted into atmosphere. The air quality in China continues to rapidly deteriorate. According to a study by the World Bank, “air pollution kills more than 750,000 people each year in China”. As a result, it is pertinent that government has to put some new regulations into place to reduce the emissions.

As David mentioned in class, 30% of the air pollution in China is due to transportation. In terms of reducing transportation emission, firstly, I think the Chinese government should develop the public transportation system by constructing more subways to cover urban areas and designing more convenient bus routes. Improving public transport would help people to reduce their time cost, so they would like to take public transport instead of driving. Secondly, if the government tax resources, like gasoline, more drivers would likely choose to use public transport instead because it would be less expensive for them to do so. The Chinese government could spend the gasoline tax revenue to devote to the construction of public transportation. Third, the Chinese government could subsidize the consumption of the hybrid cars. This help to reduce the gas emissions and stimulate the economy since more people would purchase the hybrid car instead. The government spending is from the tax revenue, all people need to pay in order to implement these policies, and meanwhile, all people will be benefit from the air quality improvement. In general, the government must be able to use the taxes on the people.

Bottom line: In my opinion, there is no single perfect policy that could solve the environmental problem. However, the Chinese government needs to do something to stop the environment from deteriorating.
* These guest posts are from students in my resource economics class at Simon Fraser University. Please leave feedback on their logic, ideas and style and suggestions of how to improve.

Speed blogging

First too little water, then too much!
  1. A Fresno-based bishop asks Omaba to intervene and save them from the drought [pdf]. Maybe he forgot about the separation of church and state? Maybe he doesn't trust the Almighty to deliver water? Maybe it's time for Exodus II.

  2. Note from a regulator (paraphrased):
    Ratemaking games still dominate. Cities project consumption patterns that double or triple observed patterns. Then they forecast ludicrous sales increases to transform a legitimate rate increase of 30% into a politically palatable 3% [lower increase per customer b/c more customers]. Those mistakes will be adjusted on future water bills, but that process takes place AFTER approval of new tariffs, and few people notice surcharges that show up 2-3 years later.
  3. UK Water companies implement social tariffs because the UK government will not give income support to the poor (and companies who do not want bad publicity from shutting off customers can fund subsidies by raising prices for other customers). On the same topic, these academics say -- as I have -- that governance is more important than laws in getting water to the poor

  4. A lack of data on fracking may kill a great opportunity. Companies and regulators should disclose everything to consumers if they want to avoid a backlash

  5. The Colorado Delta may not be as dead as people say -- good news for the ecology; bad news for irrigators who may still lose their water to the public trust (the same is true in the Sac-SJ Delta, where exporters pray for eco-death so they can export ALL the water)
H/T to PR

7 Apr 2014

Monday funnies


Say yes to Carbon Tax

Lauren Zhu writes:*

The streaming BC carbon tax debate continues since the first day of its implementation in 2008. And as I have acquired more knowledge on the phenomena, I have become a total supporter of the tax policy. I believe that the most effective method to reduce green house gas emission is to implement compulsory policies including taxation (price each unit of emission), limited permit system (cap-and-trade) or set regulations on the production side. Among which tax policy would be the most efficient and effective policy to have to influence people’s behaviors. Tax on per unit of emission polluted has a direct impact on price (ex: gas price) which is the main mechanism of changing consumption of gasoline. In addition, tax policy is also the most cost effective. It doesn’t require huge amount of transaction cost and it is significantly simpler than cap and trade system. However, it is inevitable that tax policies encounter great political difficulties.

Bottom Line: If you want to reduce green house gas emissions; it is not FREE. And the alternative policies to a carbon tax (regulations) are more expensive and less economically efficient.

* These guest posts are from students in my resource economics class at Simon Fraser University. Please leave feedback on their logic, ideas and style and suggestions of how to improve.

The Impact of Deglaciation on Humans

Lily Qin writes:*

Recently, I heard about a polar bear died of starvation caused by melting glaciers. At Svalbard where is the northernmost part of Norway, the polar bear was really skinny due to the lack of ice made it harder to hunt seals. In fact, glaciers as a main source of water supply that not only affect animals but also human societies.

Causes: The main reason of deglaciation is global warming. Nowadays, population expansion produces huge amount carbon dioxide. The average temperature rises obviously in annual. The decline of snowfall results in unbalance between accumulation and ablation of glaciers. Moreover, human behaviors due to developing of industries and economy also trigger out glacier retreat such as excessive deforestation, over exploiting of land reclamation, overloading of herds.

Impacts: The importance of glaciers is they can reflect sunlight that to keep temperature and humidity stable. If the melting happens, forest fires may occur. Then, it loses of the habitat of wild animals, the source of wood, and a drier and warmer atmosphere. Furthermore, the sea levels will rise since ices melt, which can swallows of the lowlands and narrows coastline.
Glaciers are the largest reservoir of fresh water both for household or agriculture. Ices retreat has impacts on decrease in runoff that the supply of domestic water, irrigation scheme and hydropower. There are also influences about increase quantity of unripe fruits or crops, and reducing of annual yield.

Solutions: People cannot stop vanishing of glaciers now. However, there are some ways can slow down the rate of recession. An aerial survey at regular period can help to know the current situation of glaciers. Regulations restrict on forest use will be helpful. Governments should grow more of trees which always have lots of benefits on environment. Then, to reform energy structure, use the new types of clean energy, increase energy efficiency are the methods in developing technology side.

Bottom Line: In my opinion, education is the most effective way to fight global warming. If people can avoid continuous climate change, deglaciation will have possibilities for improvement.

* These guest posts are from students in my resource economics class at Simon Fraser University. Please leave feedback on their logic, ideas and style and suggestions of how to improve.

Biogas-An Environmental Friendly Renewable Energy Resource

Erin Chang writes:*

Recently, some people propose to generate electricity from biogas rather than nuclear fission or fossil fuel. Biogas mainly contains methane, which is a high energy source, that can be generate electricity via a process called biogas upgrading. Moreover, the recent combined heat and power (CHP) technology can enhance the biogas utilization in order to achieve higher energy conversion efficiency. Biogas is not just environmental but also economical friendly because it is a collection of the high energy gases from the decomposition of agricultural crops, manure, and biowaste. After the decomposition, the material reminded can be used as a good quality fertilizer. Instead of concerning about the nuclear leak and toxicity of fossil fuel, biogas is a way safer and people do not need to concern about its safety. Therefore, it is time to promote biogas as mainly energy resource.

Bottom Line: As a renewable resource, biogas could replace nuclear fission or fossil fuel to generate electricity.

* These guest posts are from students in my resource economics class at Simon Fraser University. Please leave feedback on their logic, ideas and style and suggestions of how to improve.

Living with Water Scarcity is OUT!

After six months of writing and revision, Living with Water Scarcity is available.

This book is a follow-up to The End of Abundance (2011), but:
  • I wrote it from scratch (no editing/revision of the old book)
  • It reflects my latest thinking on water tariffs, markets, environmental flows, etc.
  • It has ideas that I have not explored or explained here (this is not a tease -- it was just easier to describe them in the book)
  • It's shorter, cheaper and snappier than my earlier book. Lots of ideas in 110 pages!
  • It's got awesome illustrations!
You can buy the book in paperback ($10), Kindle ($4.99) and PDF ($5). Just go here.*

I'll be adding more material (references, video intro, etc.) to the book's webpages in the next few weeks, but I am posting this now for people who want the book!**

Bottom Line: I am happy to have this book for you to read. I hope you enjoy it, and I look forward to your comments and suggestions.

* Note that amazon.com (.de, .fr, .uk. etc.) does NOT have the paperback listing posted yet. That should show up in the next week or so. You can buy the paperback from Createspace for the same price (Amazon owns Createspace; they are the "publish on demand" service that I've used for both books.)

** If you like it, then please tell your friends, leave feedback on amazon, etc. As a small publisher, I need all the promotion I can get!

4 Apr 2014

Friday party!

Another producer at work

Economics vs Politics, what can be done?

Aleks Acimovic writes:*

The combination of economics and politics is often a distant relationship that tries to achieve a middle ground but fails to do so. Economics gives a rational solution about scarce resources that often have empirical knowledge behind them. While politics has representatives (politicians) attempting to achieve an out come for the people they represent (society). Often the politics make promises that are just not realistic when you factor in the economics. For example, the Northern Gateway pipeline currently being proposed in British Columbia is creating controversy between what it is capable of doing and what it will actually do. Right away the NDP and Liberals are throwing their own ideologies around on a project they know little to nothing about. Yet they feel as if they are experts on such a topic. Often these two political groups put their own interests in front of the peoples and have little regard for the facts. I believe that these two forces should come together and try to overcome political tension by appointing an out of province review board of the project that can present unbiased ideas about what is really going on in the pipeline market. By doing so, both political parties will look competent in societies eyes. Those Does anyone on this blog have any ideas on how these two separate institutions can come together to strive to a single goal for the greater good of society?

Bottom Line: Bringing in a Third Party that is creditable will help society from a different perspective on projects.

* These guest posts are from students in my resource economics class at Simon Fraser University. Please leave feedback on their logic, ideas and style and suggestions of how to improve.

Coase theorem and property right in real world

YK writes:*

When there is a negative externality problem like air pollution or noise problems, Coase theorem believes that assigning property rights to either party involved will result in an efficient outcome without the intervention of a third party such as the government or environmentalist. Through negotiations, both parties will reach a solution (one compensating the other) which will be also efficient.

However, in order to reach a solution, certain conditions are needed to be met. First, there has to be not many people involved. Secondly, a property right has to be clearly set and easily enforceable. Thirdly, transaction cost in reaching the agreement has to be near zero. However, such ideal circumstances are not necessarily realistic. In the real world, there are far more complex factors that fall under the equation. For instance, determining one’s property right is a complicated matter on its own; at times it is very difficult to determine who has the initial right to a property. Moreover, when there are numerous actors are involved, huge transaction costs make trades or negotiations impossible at times.

For example, when it comes to global warming, “there is no way to assess accurately all the possible impacts and to assign economic values to alternative courses of action. A greenhouse warming impacts are so broad, diverse, and uncertain that conventional economic analysis is practically useless” (Jamieson, 1992). Furthermore, often the decision making process have their basis on narrowly economic grounds. Surely there are other important factors such as the environment and the distribution of benefit in total welfare that Coase theorem and the market economy system is not taking into account because management approaches are solely concerned in net economic benefit.

Bottom Line: The Coase theorem and the property right solution do not work perfectly in the real world. In order to rectify this issue we need another solution that can internalize costs into the private action, such as the pigouvian tax system.

* These guest posts are from students in my resource economics class at Simon Fraser University. Please leave feedback on their logic, ideas and style and suggestions of how to improve.

The Battle Between our Taste Buds and Bajau Fishermen

Kenneth Chan writes:*

There is always a strong passion in terms of seafood in Southeast Asia; however, the constantly rising demand in high end and expensive seafood such as Groupers in Asia has brought a threat to the world last sea nomads—the Bajau people.

For centuries, Bajau people are displaced along the waters and seas between the Philippines, Malaysia and India. They have a long tradition living on homemade wooden boats. The life of Bajau people is harsh but simple, they earn their living by fishing, pearling and catching sea cucumbers; and they will only return to land after several months in sea. In the past, they use very modest tools for diving—goggles are handmade with wood and glass, and harpoon are made from scrap materials from old ships. Nonetheless, the significant increase in the demand for seafood in Southeast Asia, the Bajau then become one of the major sources of the supply.

According to WWF research data, fisheries exports had brought up to USD$800 million a year of revenue to the Bajau people, but these figures did not bring prosperity to the Bajau people. Conversely, accidents occur continuously due to improper uses on homemade bomb for fishing; and in some serious cases, both hands of a fisherman have been blown off due of the improper use of firearm for fishing. On one hand, many Bajau fishermen have suffered from decompression sickness due to improper usage of oxygen tank to dive, and there are reports in death occasionally. On the other hand, the use of homemade bombs and cyanide have caused an environmental disaster to the nearby coral reeds and marine environment, some coral fish such as the napoleon wrasse had been listed as an endangered species.

Bottom Line: It is without a doubt that the ultimate victims in terms of reduction in fishery is the Bajau people, but the Bajau fishermen is just fulfilling our taste buds. While we are enjoying these seafood, the world’s only remaining sea nomads may have to disappear. With people have to suffer on the other side of the world, do we really ease to eat those fish?

* These guest posts are from students in my resource economics class at Simon Fraser University. Please leave feedback on their logic, ideas and style and suggestions of how to improve.

The present future

Sometimes the Economist goes from insightful to poetic:
Robots will get better... and continue to get better beyond that. Man may be the measure of many things, but not of the ultimate capabilities of robots—or, to put fetishisation aside, the ultimate capabilities of humans working together, with and through robots, to enhance their abilities. Clearly there will be limits to the things robots can do. But such limits are not yet in sight.

The future, like “technology” and “robots”, is by its nature an ill-defined residue of hope or fear left behind when the seamlessly working, unconsciously accepted and apparently inevitable parts of the world are taken out of the picture. Sometimes, in some ways, it seems to be already present: there are robots doing the bidding of scientists on the surface of Mars right now. Sometimes it feels permanently deferred, with dreams of progress borne back ceaselessly into the past. But for all its strangeness and contradiction, we already know its natives. They are coming to work and play among us in ever greater numbers.
Read this article on robots vs. humans in the labor market.

Published at 4:44 on 4.4.14 :)

3 Apr 2014

Environment is priceless

Q writes:*

In 2013, a serious haze occurred in almost all regions of the middle east of China. The haze lasted for an approximately half month from December 2nd to 14th. Once again, another haze occurred in Feb 2014. It is no doubt that the haze was caused by air pollution, but why it takes place so often in winter? The answer is that the government burns a great amount of coal to provide urban heating in northern China which lead to a severe air pollution. In China, coal is much cheaper than natural gas, solar energy and so on. But compare to the cheap price of coal, the government of China should pay more attention on the serious air pollution caused by coal burning.

There are many ways that can reduce air pollution which caused by coal burning. For example, reduce air pollution by improving the quality of coals. China imports a great amount of coals but many of them are inferior coals which contain a lower calorific value, higher ash and higher sulfur. Burning these inferior coals will discharge much more dust, CO, harmful substance and pollutants. To deal with it I think the government of China should restrict the quality of coal imported from other countries and adding tax on it. For those firms who burn inferior coals, they should also pay more environment tax. As a result, less inferior coals will be imported into China and less firms will use it.

Bottom Line: Though China has a rapid growth of GDP, the reduction of environmental quality is also rapidly. The innovation of energy resource structure must be enforced to keep our mother-land clean. Sacrificing environment to promote economy is not a good business.

* These guest posts are from students in my resource economics class at Simon Fraser University. Please leave feedback on their logic, ideas and style and suggestions of how to improve.

Reaganomics and Likonomics

V writes:*

During the 1980s, the U.S President Ronald Reagan issued and implemented a new economic policy to fight against the inflation. This policy contains four main actions what are to reduce the growth of government spending, reduce the federal income tax and capital gains tax, reduce government regulation, and tighten the money supply. The problem of inflation United States people faced decades ago is what the Chinese are facing right now.

The new Chinese prime minister Li ke qiang issued his Likonomics what are similar with the Reaganomics to reduce the high inflation in China today, and also to clean the environment. As known, China has the largest economic growth in the world, however, people do not know China also has the largest environment pollution in the developing countries. People may say China's economic boom is under the environment destruction. For example, it cost 970 billion Yuan to clean the environment and recover the ecosystem in 2009, which cost 3.8% GDP. Besides that, the environmental degradation cost increasing rate has exceeded the increasing rate of Chinese GDP, which is 9.2% environmental degradation cost increasing rate compares to the 8.7% GDP increasing rate.

Bottom Line: Reaganomics and Likonomics are both used to fight against the inflation crisis, however , different times and different areas endowed Liknomics with new tasks and responsibilities what are slowing the economic growth and concerning more about the environment issues

* These guest posts are from students in my resource economics class at Simon Fraser University. Please leave feedback on their logic, ideas and style and suggestions of how to improve.

Threatened Rainforest

Qijun Ou writes:*

People like gold and diamonds, but these precious metals and gemstones are discovered in rainforests around the world. If we want to get gemstones, we have to extracting metals from mines. Extracting these important natural resources actually is a disruptive activity, which would seriously damage to the ecosystem of tropical rainforests and brings about troubles to the residents living in downstream and those who living near to the mining regions. Take Amazon rainforest as a instance, gold can be discovered in floodplain where the Amazon River flow through, so that there many miners work around there and therefore a host of heavy metal pollutants are discharged into the river. However, some heavy-metal pollutants are poisonous like inorganic that would transform into methyl mercury. Which not only would pollutant fishes and sea creatures, more importantly it is very dangerous once other animals or people have eaten those fishes that have been polluted, they would suffer from mercury poisoning and even dies. What’s more, in the process of extracting metals, company need to cut a host of forests and they caved mines and trees with explosives, then the explosives would bring out soil erosion and affects the quality of water, also it seriously affects indigenous people’s health. Yet at the same time, large-scale deforestation and chemical substances has negative effects on rainforest, but pollutants effects are more severe in the downstream. These would result in more and more silts in the river and decrease the amount of water, which would affect local fishery.

Bottom Line: Although gold and diamonds are very attractive for us and extracting metals can bring huge profits for company, we still need to balance the loss and gains from the rainforest. Once rainforest disappear and ecosystem suffers from damage, it is hard for human to rebuild a healthy ecology. Therefore, I think that local government ought to ban industry to mining in the rainforests, or government limit the number of industries and set rules to regulate industry to deforest in order to achieve “win win” strategy.

* These guest posts are from students in my resource economics class at Simon Fraser University. Please leave feedback on their logic, ideas and style and suggestions of how to improve.

Speed blogging

  1. University of British Columbia has a series of videos on managing stormwater runoff

  2. Academics: People will pay to improve tap water quality when they have poor quality tap water! Technology is making it easier (cheaper) to monitor environmental conditions*

  3. India is planning a series of dams in its Northwest. Locals are unlikely to benefit

  4. Asparagus production in Peru is depleting local water supplies.** Another example of private gains and social losses

  5. Watersmart asked San Francisco people how much water they use. They don't really know, but should they?

* Canadian scientists will need technology if they are going to survive funding cuts by a government desperate to hide environmental damage from oil/gas companies. (This stuff is straight out of Orwell.)

** The US DEA encouraged this crop (over objections of US farmers and USDA) to reduce the attraction of coca (cocaine) production. This may be a triple fail, as cocaine is still flowing into the US, American farmers are hurt, and Peruvian farmers have depleted their water (with World Bank money). Good job, guys.

2 Apr 2014

Resources – Are we heading into an Apocalyptic survival mode?

Hranislav Djoric writes:*

While reading Hardin’s “The Tragedy of the Commons”, I found his example of putting a family size limit to slow population growth rather interesting. He had stated that if we were to put a family size limit, then those families who are already bigger than others will have a higher likelihood of passing their genes on which can prove to be problematic. But the point that strikes me as being most odd is where he writes that if a population is still growing it has not yet reached its optimal size. He of course did explain that the optimal size is much less than its maximum size, but I still find this shocking when I think about the human population on Earth.

Our population, in my opinion, is growing at an unstable rate. This leads me to believe that if we ever reach our “optimum” population size, we are in fact economically, and from a resource stand point, doomed. Our world’s economies have a hard enough time feeding those who are poor all around our planet as is. Shouldn’t the fact that the population “has not reached its optimum yet” scare most of us into action? Because if we think about Hardin’s statement, it implies that our population has some time to continue growing until it balances out at an equilibrium. But is that equilibrium at a point where all resources are consumed? Could it mean that we as a population will have been forced to mine all the renewable resources due to our population size? And by this I am referring to those resources of which we need to survive, not the other crap of course. When our population reaches “optimum”, I’m terrified to think of the apocalyptic survival mode our population will be in.

Bottom Line: It is time to start thinking about reorganizing the systems we have in place today, in order to prevent a problem of over population and scarce resources tomorrow – either through education or regulations of some kind.

* These guest posts are from students in my resource economics class at Simon Fraser University. Please leave feedback on their logic, ideas and style and suggestions of how to improve.

What can a meat lover do for the environment?

Jim Baek writes:*

Let’s face it. Being a vegetarian is not remotely a realistic option for some people who deeply care about the environment. Embracing vegetarians’ struggle like limited options in public restaurants on a daily basis requires considerable personal dedication and sacrifice.

Here is an alternative option for those who want to help the environment but can’t resist the juicy taste of meat: choose pork or poultry over beef, especially grain-fed one. For those who’re not aware of how much the meat production harms the environment, the livestock, which produces meat and milk, is responsible for roughly 18% of men-made greenhouse gases (GHG) according to a 2006 study from the Food and Agriculture Organization [pdf]. Besides the livestock production is one of the main factors that drive the global water shortage: it single-handedly use one-third of the fresh water globally in the process of production, which includes harvesting grain for feed.

Though what is best for the environment is reducing the meat consumption, given our increasing appetite for meat it’s unlikely that we can change our preferences in diet totally. But mere preference shift in meat from beef to pork or poultry can lessen the damage to the environment. According to studies regarding livestock conducted in Kenya, Australia, and Austria, pork and poultry are the much environmental friendly than the grain-fed beef. While pig and poultry produce 10% of total GHG emission from livestock, in terms of meat, they produce three times of what cattle produce on global level. On top of that, when it comes to feed-efficiency, pork and poultry is five times more efficient than cow in producing the same amount of protein than cow.

Bottom Line: Care about the environment, but can’t give up the meat? Choose pork or poultry over beef.

* These guest posts are from students in my resource economics class at Simon Fraser University. Please leave feedback on their logic, ideas and style and suggestions of how to improve.

Firm's moral responsibility of production

Elena Bae writes:*

As a barista at a world-wide coffee shop, I can easily see that a huge amount of resources are being wasted every day. At least 50 plastic milk containers are thrown away and also 300 take-out cups that take at least 50 years to dispose are used from a store. Moreover, those wastes socially cost “$145 per ton to landfill waste.” In order to achieve the ultimate goal of maximum profits, corporations put a lot of effort to reduce production costs. Through this effort, fixed cost and variable costs are becoming lower and lower, and more goods become available for sale with low production costs.

In other words, firms do not care about external costs they make during and after production since those costs do not affect their cost-benefit calculations. But who bears the costs from wasted resources? Just as a firm takes in profits from the production and sale of its products, it is also a firm’s moral responsibility to account for the environmental damages that the manufactured good would cause. In addition, if costs of disposition of wastes negatively affect their profits, the firm would put the equal or near equal amount of effort into producing and disposing the goods at the lowest cost possible. Then, firms would be more willing to reduce costs and also the wasteful usage of valuable resources.

Bottom Line: Improvement of benefits and costs calculations in terms of firm's profit.

* These guest posts are from students in my resource economics class at Simon Fraser University. Please leave feedback on their logic, ideas and style and suggestions of how to improve.

Anything but water

This is a good idea!
  1. Lessons From Bar Fight Litigation offers important psychological insights...

  2. WAY under-reported: "If the goal was to reduce global warming pollution, then the BC carbon tax totally works."

  3. The Economist denounces crony capitalism and offers an index of crony capitalism around the world (water is subject to these forces, but oil and construction is where the money's at)

  4. Yuppie coffee (pods) are killing the earth

  5. Anti-Keystone activists traced pro-pipeline comments to industry folks. That's not an issue as much as their failure to declare their affiliation

  6. US mayors discuss how they are making data available to citizens to improve services. That's a big contradiction to Idaho's "ag-gag" policy of keeping people in the dark on ag-business pollution and cruelty
H/T to RM

Climate change: fact or fiction?*

The Daily Climate

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Today's climate news from around the world

 Top Stories

Professor accuses millionaire of backing smear campaign. After projecting that rising seas could swamp The Island, Professor Roy Hinkley said he endured a series of political attacks financed by industrialist Thurston Howell III. Other islanders, who get all their news from an AM radio, sided with Howell. Big Island Weekly
Hollywood cancels awards season. Concerned about the carbon footprint of $600 bouquets, $200,000 haute couture dresses and imported caviar at countless after-parties, the Academy of Motion Pictures cancelled the 2015 Academy Awards and urged the Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globes to follow suit. Hollywood Reporter
Science panel weighs downgrade for Delaware. The science panel that oversaw Pluto's controversial downgrading from "planet" status in 2006 is now considering whether, as seas continue to rise, America's lowest-lying state should be bumped down to a sandbar. Wilmington WDEL Radio

 Climate at your Doorstep

North Carolina's sea-level ban working. Thanks to a 2012 state law, scientists report that seas are six inches higher in neighboring Virginia and South Carolina. Outer Banks Voice
Baffin Island wins bid to host 2026 America's Cup. Having assuring the Site Selection Committee that sea ice would be long gone and polar bears a non-issue, Nunavut leaders announced the Baffin Island Yacht Club will host the America's Cup in 2026. Nunatsiaq News
Saskatchewan Tourism Board launches Spring Break promotion. Look out, Padre Island and Panama City. Provincial tourism officials rolled out an ambitious marketing platform that they hope will make Saskatoon and Medicine Hat the Spring Break Meccas of the mid-to-late 21st Century. Saskatoon Western Producer


McCartney: Meatless no more. Sir Paul McCartney is done with the Meatless Monday campaign he has spearheaded since 2010, it can be revealed. "Enough with polenta, rice noodles and beans," he declared as he tucked into a ribeye at famed London steakhouse Hawksmoor Monday afternoon. London Daily Mail
Energy Secretary's hairstyle sweeping the nation. Secretary Ernest Moniz may have inherited more than his fondness for nuclear energy from a prior Energy leader. Observers say that the late Dixy Lee Ray, outspoken Governor of Washington State and Atomic Energy Commissioner, may have gotten into not only Moniz's head, but his scalp. Politico
High-end sports gear puts US under Kyoto limits. Americans are sequestering so much carbon in high-end sports equipment - carbon-fiber bikes, golf clubs, skis, and tennis rackets, among others - that the United States this summer will hit its emissions targets under the Kyoto Protocol for the first time ever. The Guardian


Mauna Loa scientists say The Donald is above 900,000 ppm in dangerous emissions. Researchers reported "runaway" greenhouse gases from real estate mogul Donald Trump. A single 10-minute appearance on "Fox & Friends" Monday produced more planet-warming pollution than the city of Schenectady, N.Y., in a week, while Trump's annual total emissions have surpassed Belgium's. Greenwire
Neil Young, stuck on train, stiffs 15,000 fans. Refusing to fly because of its carbon intensity, rocker Neil Young and his band found themselves delayed for hours on Amtrak behind several oil trains. The pipeline opponent left a sold-out Intrust Bank Arena seething. Witchita KSN TV
India tumbles from Top Five for global warming excuses. Abrupt increases by Japan, Australia, Canada drop India to sixth place. US, China still lead in government efforts to justify policy retrenchment and inaction. Responding to Climate Change


McKibben quits, enters monastery. Writer and grassroots organizer Bill McKibben abruptly resigned as head of 350.org Monday, joined a monastery and took a vow of silence. "'Nuf said" were the only two words on the group's website Tuesday morning. Activists worldwide were just as speechless. Agence France-Presse
Yes Men apologize for previous apologies. The team of satirical publicity pranksters known for faking public apologies by Union Carbide, Koch Industries, Peabody Coal, Dow Chemical and others has itself apologized for inflicting emotional distress on America's corporations. "We realized, after the Citizens United case, that corporations are people too," said group frontman Andy Bichlbaum. "We are terribly sorry." Bloomberg News
UN Climate Panel breaks logjam, approves Agenda for 2009 Copenhagen meeting. The smoke has cleared, and the hotel rooms and conference center emptied out four and a half years ago. But United Nations delegates can claim a small victory for the 2009 climate summit, as the agenda for the two-week meeting is now set. National Public Radio

* I get this newsletter everyday. I suggest you join me in subscribing (and donating)

...and here, via TS, is the California edition

1 Apr 2014

Will Electric Cars save the capital of China?

C writes:*

Beijing, the capital of China, reaches the “orange level” of air pollution measured by the World Health Organization. In many cities, the toxic smog caused by economic developments is now dangerous for people to live. Daily routines are seriously affected, people are covered with gas masks and schools have to build “air purified indoor gyms”. One of the major air pollution sources is vehicle emission, and there are more than five million cars sharing the jammed roads in Beijing. Reducing vehicle emission must be put into action by the government in order to reduce the smog, which means decreasing the volume of operating vehicles, or increasing the usage of electric vehicles.

Luckily, we now have electric vehicles manufactures in mass production. One of them is Tesla Automotive from USA and the other one is BYD from mainland China. Compare to traditional gasoline vehicles, electric cars have Zero emission (without considering the generation of electricity), and higher energy conversion rate. Would the government of China save its capital by enforcing the use of electric cars? Or will China continue the path of London and Los Angeles’s smog disasters that happened during the 20th century?

Bottom Line: Electric cars will reduce the smog in Beijing

* These guest posts are from students in my resource economics class at Simon Fraser University. Please leave feedback on their logic, ideas and style and suggestions of how to improve.

The issue of cell phone recycling

David Wang writes:*

The mobile phone industry is getting thriving and profitable these days, but the old phone recycling issue has become a widespread concern. According to a research conducted by Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA) in 2013, over 70% of adult Canadians own a cell phone, and among the people who does not currently own a cell phone, is planning to have one in the future. On average, Canadians have owned 3 cell phones prior to their current one. About 80% Canadians either store their cell phone or put on other use after they purchase a new one.

The issue of not recycling used or unwanted cell phone is twofold, on one hand, if the used cell phones are not being disposed properly, then they will become a long lasting pollution to the environment since one third of cell phone is made by metals. On the other hand, in fact, over 90% of the materials used in mobiles can be reused or recovered, and some of the heavy metals that can be recycled are very valuable. So it is both a harm to the environment and a waste for not recycling the old mobiles.

Two potential solutions can be considered to encourage people recycle their used cell phone. First, cell phone company like Apple or Samsung could cooperate with cell phone recycling company like ecoATM or Mobile Muster to reinforce the recycling program, make it easier for people to participate in the program. Second, government could announce certain policy that requires cell phone company to put recycling related information on their advertisement for their new issued products.

Bottom Line: Not recycle old cell phone is harmful to our environment and also a waste. It is important to recycle your used cell phone.

* These guest posts are from students in my resource economics class at Simon Fraser University. Please leave feedback on their logic, ideas and style and suggestions of how to improve.

Comparison of birth rate between urban and rural in China

D writes:*

Generally speaking, urban areas hold more resources than rural parts; nevertheless, the birth rate in cities is much lower than in village throughout China. In rural areas, each family usually has five children on average. The reason behind the high birth rate can be simplified as traditional culture and hankering for a wealthy life. Some underdeveloped areas still stubbornly prefer males than females. Thus, they keep breeding until they get boys or having more boys which leads to the second reason: better life. Chinese farmers live on ploughs, more males means more laborers, more outputs and more money. The problem is, the resources, the lands are limited; uncontrolled increasing of people actually decreases the marginal product per workers. And some families even don’t have enough resources to bring up more children. The more children they breed, the poorer they will be, and then they want more children to change the situation, which is a vicious circle. Comparing with cities, people get more land, clean water, but low birth rate. Mostly, they gather all the resources to raise a single child, providing best living condition, and best education. The best social resources actually feed small amount of people. In fact, these children will live better than the big families. The rich people will more likely get richer.

Bottom Line: I’m not saying children born in cities are better or smarter than children who born in rural areas. Assuming they have the same resources, rural families will try to maximize the quantity of children; rather, urban families try to maximize the quality. How they allocate the resources is different.

* These guest posts are from students in my resource economics class at Simon Fraser University. Please leave feedback on their logic, ideas and style and suggestions of how to improve.