Environmental Economics: Global Perspective through Local Lenses

Science and Business Students Explore of Intersection of Two Critical Fields

Marist offers a wide variety of classes to meet students' multi-faceted and wide-ranging interests. One of the classes that addresses a unique interest in the intersection between environmentalism and business is called Environmental Economics, taught by Dr. Ann Davis. She says it's one of her favorite classes to teach because of the passion she sees in her students.

"The students here are practical. They want to know if they can get a job, but they are also interested in making the world a better place. There's a kind of 'Marist mission' in that.

Marist College Environmental Economics. Photo by Sophia Brana '17.Students currently taking the course say it has helped them narrow their interests and become more engaged members of the community.

Marist student Jessica Howe says the class "has been a very eye-opening experience and very relevant to current world issues. Trying to find a balance between the two fields of economics and environmental issues proves to be challenging, but a really important topic and relationship. I found myself very interested in how entwined these fields of study have become, along with the political influences involved, too."

Due to her experience with this class, Jessica decided to declare a second major in Economics with a concentration in Policy to couple with her current major in Environmental Studies. This particular course really struck a chord with what she wants to do in the future.

Another student, Matthew O'Connor, majors in finance. He says this class inspired him to take action within his field and use it to create real change.

"Basically, environmental economics encourages people to research current environmental issues and the success of different correctional methodologies. I researched fossil fuel divestment and will educate a private student fund at Marist on fossil fuels divestment's environmental benefits," he says.

The class is divided into two halves of the semester. The first section deals with environmental systems and how they operate so that the students get a comprehensive background of the science behind the issues they will be tackling through the lens of economics.

Marist Environmental Economics. Photo by Sophia Brana '17."It's very abstract and science-y, but then we bring it home and I ask students to look at specific issues with the environment, and what kind of policies exist to make them better," says Davis.

The second half of the semester involves applied economics in which economic theories and proposals are used to address various problems laid out in the first half of the semester. Professor Davis says people underestimate the relationship between economics and the environment, and how useful economics can be when it comes to solving big issues like climate change.

"I'm seeing many more business students in this class, because arguably there are more green entrepreneurship opportunities currently, so it's nice to have a mix and see students interested in this more and more. There are some skeptics, but I'm seeing much less of those in the class, which is exciting for the future of this issue," she said.

The class also involves a field trip to a local area in Poughkeepsie that is directly affected by the environmental systems students learn about in the first part of the semester. Students then apply the economics learned in the second half of the semester to this local problem, and then use that as an example to address larger, more global implications of the environmental problems they explore. Students usually go to the Fall Kill, which is a stream that runs from Hyde Park through the city of Poughkeepsie and back into the Hudson River. The water used to be so clean that FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt would swim in it when they were entertaining guests, but now that is not possible.

"We get to use the Hudson Valley as a pedagogical device for the class, and that's really unique to Marist," said Davis. "Hopefully with the science and the economics, coupled with the personal and global levels, the issue really connects with students."

With an inspirational, yet practical approach, this course has encouraged students of all majors and class standings to get involved with the local Hudson Valley region and use their unique talents toward the betterment of the community.

Written by Shannon Donohue '17

Photos by  Sophia Brana '17

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