Most helpful positive review
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Challenging textbook but well designed and structured
on 26 January 2014
Pearson is a long-established leader of world-class, dynamic, easy-to-read textbooks and Natural Resource and Environmental Economics is no exception. In its fourth edition, this textbook bears an impressive appearance: a picturesque woodland covers a massive 700 page turquoise textbook. Environment economics is no easy discipline to explain, requiring the ultimate combination of strong qualitative exposition with natural intuition, but this textbook somehow manages to achieve that perfect mix of plenty of diagrams, real-world examples and worked-through mathematical examples.
Part I, entitled 'Foundations', is very much that. Interestingly for an economics textbook, it is history and intuition that lays the foundations rather than mathematical rigour. Anyway, the introduction is gentle and thought-provoking as a way to motivate the student into the contemporary issues of sustainability, inequality, environmental ethics and so on. The final chapter of this part gets a bit more formal with an introduction to welfare economics, and just when you though you could escape the maths for a while longer, formal notation is applied to unpick problems in the interaction between welfare and the environment.
Part II, entitled 'Environmental pollution', is a tricky section containing the bulk of environmental theory. If one can master the six chapter here then one has reached a very high level of engagement in environmental economics and the surrounding issues. Much ink is spilt on pollution targets and control, but the exposition is well balanced between diagrams, intuition and mathematical analysis. Things take on an extra layer of difficulty when it comes to imperfect information (cases where the polluter known more than the authorities regarding their pollution level, and requires incentives to tell the truth).
Part III takes quite a surprising turn. Here, one studies 'Project appraisal', with unsurprisingly 'cost-benefit analysis' being the buzzword here. This raises particularly fascinating issues in the environment, since valuation, which is so difficult. How, for example, do you value the welfare of future generations? What is the monetary value of biodiversity or grasslands or trees? All these questions are deeply relevant here and are crucial to the policy we see today.
The final part, 'Nature resource exploitation' gives an economic analyses of the vast depletion of natural resources we have witnessed, especially over the last hundred years and it is yet to be significantly curbed.
What I particularly like about this textbook is the summaries, further reading, discussion questions and problems that follow every single chapter, allowing the reader to go into further depth should that be the order of the day. The benefit of having five authors with diverse expertise really comes to the fore here.
Overall, Natural Resource an Environmental Economics is an essential textbook and reference guide in the already vast and rapidly expanding subset of economics. Whilst it is undoubtedly a challenging textbook, it will appeal to those with either strong intuitive or mathematical capacities. Diagrams and verbal explanation are clear, and whilst there perhaps could be a little more explanation when going from one line of maths to another, I strongly recommend this text.