Economics and the Environment - a growing area of interest

If only money grew on trees instead of being made from them...

As evidenced by the recent pipelines approvals announced by the Trudeau government, the work to balance 'environment' and 'economy' is the BIGGEST challenge for all Canadians. Whether it is new public policy, a new corporate initiative, or a citizen-led project, we wll all need to enhance our economic literacy if we're to be successful in arguing for the transition to a low-carbon economy (there's that word again).

Thankfully, the Sustainability Network is there to help. Their mission is to strengthen environmental nonprofit leadership for collective action. The Sustainability Network works with environmental non-profits to make them more effective and efficient. By improving management and leadership skills and fostering organizational development, Sustainability Network helps to strengthen the environmental community. They are all about sustaining the organizations that work on sustainability!

And to help even further, the Sustainability Network is teaming up with Eric Miller, a consulting ecological economist and contract faculty at York University, to deliver an online training course entitled Economic Literacy for a Green Economy

But, perhaps, you are wondering is this needed? and what would I learn? Well, dear readers, here's the 411 on that topic that shares 5 reasons why this program IS right for you:

  1. Why is economic literacy important?

    Economic literacy is important because economic terms and ideas dominate everyday discussions and societal conversations about environmental issues. To engage Canadians and the world on environmental issues, one needs to understand the dominant economic paradigm. Yet there are few structured learning opportunities for Canadians about this – that’s why we developed the training.

  1. Why are economic considerations in environmental practice important?

    Economic and environmental issues are intertwined. The training examines this interrelationship as it relates to various important issues of our times including

  • Assessing the strengths and limits of markets
  • Valuing unpriced environmental benefits and damages
  • Rewarding pro-environmental behaviour
  • Reconciling trade-offs to inform public decisions
  • (Re)defining economic progress and sustainability
  • Reorienting the economy for the 21st Century.

Economic strategies for the future must take the environment into account if the strategies are to yield high levels of wellbeing over several human generations. The training empowers learners to understand this and to explain it to others.

Solutions to environmental problems should consider economic approaches that reward ongoing improvements in environmental performance. The training informs learners about ways of using economic approaches to environmental objectives.

  1. How long have environmental economics, natural resource economics or ecological economics been alternative economic models in Canada?

    Since confederation, Canadians have used economic insights to understand and resolve environmental issues. Only in the last few decades have some Canadian economists branded their work as being “ecological economics” or “environmental economics” or “natural resource economics.” These brand names are of secondary importance to the greater importance of learning about their insights.The training introduces participants to important Canadian innovations, including: how to best manage fisheries and other common-pool resources, techniques for economically valuing unpriced environmental losses and gains, strategies for efficiently reducing pollution, accounting systems for environmental assets, methods of estimating the natural capital requirements of economies, insights about assessing the determinants of life satisfaction and happiness, and new approaches to economic modelling in support of a greener economy.

  1. Do any well-known institutes/organizations/governments use environmental economics, natural resource economics or ecological economics?

    Yes, institutes, organizations, and governments use green economics even if they aren’t aware of which specific brand they’re using. Examples are profiled throughout the training, with specific references that allow learners to engage in a further exploration of ideas, data, tools, and economic models. Realistic cases are used to ground learning to real-world issues, with commentary on each case by professional economists from various organizations in Canada.

  1. Are there practical applications where the learning from this course on economic literacy can be used? Is so, where and/or how?

    The training will help whenever economic language and concepts are used, from dinner-table conversations to important public debates. Whether the learner is interested in becoming a more engaged citizen, or interested in providing more value in a professional capacity, learners will benefit from the case-based approach to learning. This approach has been successfully used for decades to train medical professionals in Canada – and also lends itself well to developing economic literacy.A different realistic case is used for each of the six modules. The learners consider the case to motivate their learning, and then apply their new learning to the case. Beyond the case, the learning can apply to any circumstance in which economic language and concepts are used, from dinner-table conversations to important public debates. Graduates of our training become literate in understanding

  • Different brands of economics and how to anticipate when economic markets are more likely to work or fail the environment
  • How society can economically value unpriced environmental gains and losses so that people can be better informed about environmental scarcities and trade-offs
  • How economists understand humans, and how pro-environmental behaviour can be purposefully or perversely affected
  • Economic tools and strategies that can inform public decisions that involve contested gains and losses, over space and time, within and outside of the marketplace
  • What is included, and omitted, by old and new measures of the economy, and how different forms of natural and human-created wealth relate to each other and the measurement of sustainability
  • How ecological economic models can inform the pathways to desirable futures and strategies to manage risks and uncertainties and other unknowns.
A\J is proud to help share information about this important learning series. After all, money may no longer grow on trees, but we'll need BOTH money and trees to ensure a healthier, more sustainable future for all Canadians. And if you aren't a fan of pipeline and fossil fuel extraction, you'll need to brush up on your economic literacy to convince bankers and investors to see your side. 
To learn more and/or to register, please visit: 

If you liked this article, please subscribe or donate today to support our work.

A\J moderates comments to maintain a respectful and thoughtful discussion.
Comments may be considered for publication in the magazine.