University of Nebraska-Lincoln, USA. Meta_economics theory explicitly includes the moral dimension in formal models.   "We are always only one failed generational transfer of knowledge away from darkest ignorance" (Herman Daly)

Resource and Environmental (and Ecological) Economics I
Fall Semester, 2013

(Click here for the Schedule of Topics covered in the Course)

Last update on August 7, 2013: . This Syllabus is being updated for the next offering starting on August 27, 2013. This course is also being prepared to be offered as a Distance Education course at some point in the future. As a result, the Syllabus is more detailed than you will sometimes find for on-campus only course offerings. Thank you for visiting this website at the  University of Nebraska in Lincoln (UNL), Nebraska, USA. This course is jointly listed through the Department of Agricultural Economics and the School of Natural Resources.

Potential Participants in the Course:  This course is intended for any individual intrigued with environmental, natural resource and ecosystem questions. The course explores both abiotic (e.g. oil, water, air and climate, land) and biotic (e.g. wildlife, range, ecosystem) resources.  The course will be useful to those planning for private sector, business and industry careers as well as for those aiming for public sector, community and non-governmental organization careers and activities. The course explores the newer eco-management, ecological (and behavioral) economic approaches as well as the more traditional environmental and natural resource economic approaches to business and industry, economy and community. Overall, the course will give one an enhanced perspective on the economic science that helps us do the best we can... practically speaking... in business and industry, community and environment, and, generally, as shared "travelers on this spaceship-Earth."

Course name and number:  AECN or NREE 265. Resource and Environmental (and Ecological) Economics I.

6:30-9:20 p.m., Tuesday, Teachers College Hall 105 (corner of Vine and N 14th Street)

Prerequisites: Introductory course in microeconomics, e.g. AECN 141, ECON 212, or equivalent.

Credits/Hours: 3-credit hours. 

Contact information for Instructor:

Contact information for Teaching Assistant:

Online applications used in this course:

Blackboard holds the set of course material, except for books that need to be accessed through the  library or purchased. The Blackboard site is accessible through .

Overall Objective: The overall objective of the course is to help students see how natural resource, environmental and ecological economics approaches can be used to work at solving problems related to the natural resource system, especially directed at achieving sustainability. Students will learn the "economic way of thinking," the economic way of framing and making more sense of an issue, question. This is all about we frame things, how we organize our thinking. This will help students entering the workforce, or developing their own businesses, and as citizens, to better understand and contribute to the conversation about issues like energy, water, biodiversity, fish and wildlife, land use, global climate change, and, especially, about long term sustainability and the eco-approach to business and industry, economy and community.  Students who apply themselves and really try to understand the economic ways (and there are several!) of framing and thinking will be positioned  to help improve the  conversation that is ongoing in the media, public meetings, government, businesses, industries and communities. As it is sometimes said, those who frame the debate tend to win the debate! Students will also learn skills in applying economic principles and ideas, especially in team-based efforts. These kinds of skills will contribute to successful careers in agriculture and industry, business (including agribusiness), including operating ones own farm or business, community agencies, non-governmental organizations and  government. 

Specific Objectives:
1. Ensure students master the subject matter
2. Develop students ability to apply the course concepts in thinking and problem solving
3. Prepare students to become life-long learners

4. Enhance team interaction abilities
5. Work to help students enjoy the course


1.   Attend and actively participate in class
2.   Help make the class interesting to yourself and others
  “Think out loud” and engage others in the class.   
4.   Share your experiences, understandings in class. 
5.   Follow hunches and inspirations.
6.   Set your
own high standards of quality.
7.   Pay attention to the broader picture as well as the
8.   Contribute to team efforts.

  Observe practical facts and consider abstract theories.
10. Effectively use the Blackboard site
11. Timely submit all assignments.
  Academic honesty. Cite all sources; no plagiarism. Do your own work.

1. Encourage interaction among everyone in the class.
2. Encourage empathy, reciprocation and cooperation within the class.
3. Apply a good balance in active and passive learning techniques.
4. Give prompt feedback on submittals of work.
5. Emphasize time on task.
6. Communicate high expectations.
7. Respect diverse types, talents, ways of learning and teaching.
8. Recognize need for constant, active and adaptive learning.

It is recognized there are various reasons for attending a university, and different things wanted out of a college education, and wanted from this course in particular. We recognize that the importance assigned to each of the following will vary (drawing this List from Smith, 2008): 1) Acquiring information (facts, principles, concepts); 2) Learning how to use information and knowledge in new situations; and 3) Developing lifelong learning skills. The first item in the List is often best accomplished with the "sage on the stage" approach (professor lecturing), in effect telling students what to learn, and generally what will be on the test. In this approach, student involement is largely passive: Attend class, take notes, recall facts and concepts, bring them to the test. The second and third items in the List are better accomplished by more active student learning, both as individuals and in team activities... reading the assigned materials at least once, and perhaps 2-3 times; questioning the materials, including lecture materials; working at thinking about the questions, and asking questions; having dialogue with others about the materials; practice at applying the materials to make sense of the world, relating same to experiences; and, in general, moving to an attitude that it is good to raise questions and to seek answers through both individual and team efforts. The second item in the List acknowledges the importance of critical thinking and recognizes... like Socrates did in what has come to be called "Socratic Questionning," in which he never provided an answer, but always just another question... that there are only better, not right or wrong, answers. This is especially the case in an ever changing world, which is why the third item in the List is perhaps in someways the most imporant. So, we need to seek ways to find the better (pragmatic.. what seems the best to do at this time) answers in a changing world, on this ever changing "spaceship-Earth." It is likely best to assume change and work at explaining stability rather than assuming stability as represented in facts, principles and concepts memorized while in college and university courses... and hoping to use what is memorized to explain the changes you will experience throughout your lifetime! By critically thinking about principles and concepts, and applying such thinking in making sense of an ever changing array of facts, we can become more resilient, better able to enjoy lifelong success (on the matter of the need to ensure and enhance resilience to achieve true sustainability in ecological economic systems more generally, see Gunderson and Holling, 2002).

Also, most importantly, this is about subject matter knowledge and expertise. We do our best in this class to bring the latest in thinking about issues and science into consideration. We draw materials from the latest scientific journals and books, and from the latest news about and understanding of the real world of experience. This is also about a passion for the topic: Economics (including political economy), and especially the human and behavioral dimension of it, has always intrigued me! I hope to pass on this excitement and enthusiasm for the topic, especially the behavioral economics side of natural resource, environmental and ecosystem issues.

Gunderson, L.H. and C.S. Holling. Panarchy: Understanding Transformations in Human and Natural Systems. Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 2002.
Smith, G.A. "First-day Questions for the Learner-Centered Classroom." The National Teaching and Learning Forum 17, 5 (September, 2008): 1-4.

Course Materials:
The textbook (required) is:  

Harris, J. M. and Roach, B. Environmental and Natural Resource Economics: A Contemporary Approach. 3rd Edition. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2013.


This latest book reflects the need to start thinking in more ecological economic terms, while still drawing the best thinking from both of the more traditional fields of natural resource and environmental economics.  We work at synthesizing these two quite different perspectives and approaches.  The need to do this synthesis is especially recognized in the newer fields of ecological economics and behavioral economics, both transdisciplinary in nature, and both having a substantive influence on the way this course is presented. 

The PowerPoint presentations used in class and provided on Blackboard, which are primarily based in the textbook, help in clarifying and supplementing (including an update of, as needed) the material in each Part of the text. Extensive Notes are provided on most individual slides in each PowerPoint, elaborating the points covered on each slide.  In some Parts and subparts usually associated with a particular Chapter, a paper or part of another book will be required reading. In these cases, most material will be made available through Blackboard, or accessible through Library and Web-based resources.

We also do Podcasting in this class, making said Audio available for most of the PowerPoints developed for the class. This can be especially helpful when some point is not fully understood, in that one can "go back" and re-listen as many times as needed, and in reviewing/studying for exams. The Podcasts do not replace in-class participation; students are still expected to attend class, and participate through both the Teams and the "iClicker" Participation system.

Technology Requirements:

We use the iClicker2 "clickers" in the class; each student is required to have their own clicker. Microsoft Word is the favored word processor for submitting written assignments through Blackboard. Microsoft Excel is needed to work with the simulations and/or to submit assignments in spreadsheet form. It is also acceptable to submit assignments where the materials have been converted into *.pdf files. 

Course Policies and Procedures:
Some flexibility can be given in work being submitted late for good reasons. This is also true for absence from discussions.  Missed assignments will suffer under penalty.  Generally, technical problems like “My computer crashed, and I lost all of my work” cannot be acknowledged, in that everyone is expected to keep back-up copies of key files.

Grading System:
Category grading is applied, using:

A: 90-100  = Excellent work
B: 80-89 = Good work
C: 70-79 = Acceptable work
D: 60-69 = Poor work
F: 50-59 = Insufficient/Failure

For each assignment and for individual tests and exams, a grade of  59 or less is subject to the "safety-net" policy. If your grade is in this range, you have the option of redoing the test, exam or assignment. However, the total points added cannot give a new grade higher than 60. This policy is only to recognize that we all have bad days, bad times with a particular exam, problem set, etc., and to help ensure everyone passes the course.   

This policy does not affect the grades of others, in that grades are awarded by category. That is, there is no curve:  the entire class, e.g., could earn a B or better grade. Plus/minus grades are also awarded within each category, e.g. 80-83 = B-; 84-86 = B; and 87-89 = B+. We encourage high quality work, and recognize progress made by each individual as we move forward through the semester.

There will be 3-exams giving 70% of the grade. There is no final exam.  Grades on the Readiness Assurance Tests (RATs), both iRATs (individual) and tRATs (team), are factored into the Exam grades; these will play a role in affecting your exam scores. This process is part of Team Based Learning (TBL) approaches we use in addition to traditional lectures (see Learning Types and Pedagogy for more information).

Written and Computer based assignments:
Problem sets/cases/homework assignments account  for 25% of the grade, focused on applications of ideas and concepts offered in the course as generally assessed in the RATs.  This is the say, the Readiness Assurance Test (RAT) helps prepare students to work on the problem sets/cases/homework assignments.  The overall purpose of writing a paper or essay is to not only help yourself and the reader understand, but also to persuade. Peer evaluation within the Teams (i.e. Peer evaluating Peer) affects the grade on this part.

Academic Honesty:
Students are expected to adhere to guidelines concerning academic dishonesty outlined in
Section 4.2 of University's Student Code of Conduct ( Students
are encouraged to contact the instructor for clarification of these guidelines if they have
questions or concerns.


Participation accounts for 5% of the grade, including participating in the iClicker interaction during class. This may seem like a small percentage, but can make the difference between a B vs C, or A vs B grade.

The goal is to provide feedback on Exams and Assignments within 2-weeks, and always before the next exam or assignment. An attempt is made to provide ample reasons for grades, so, first, Rubrics (e.g. see the supply-demand rubric; short essays rubric ; papers rubric; Powerpoint rubric) are used in assessing responses in written assignments and in assessing answers to essay questions in exams. Second, the reason for the specific rating is then explained for the question or issue at hand relative to the Rubric.

Learning Types and Pedagogy:
We work to accommodate different types of learners, and as a result provide for different types of both individual and team learning experiences. Regarding teams, we use the TBL (Team Based Learning) approach as described in Michaelson, Knight and Fink (2004). We also use parts of the approach suggested in Peer Instruction using "clickers" (as in Bruff, 2009): The learning is in the discussion and interaction with others who are also learning, in addition to reading and self-study of both the book and the powerpoints that build upon and supplement the book. We form Teams we refer to as CEEPs, Consultants on Environmental/EcologicalEconomic Practice = private sector consultants/analysts, or, if you prefer, Councils on Environmental/Ecological Policy = public sector consultants/analysts. These CEEP Teams, typically having 5-7 members, are organized during the first couple of weeks. We balance the teams based on personality types using the BFI (Big Five Inventory); majors and level (i.e. standing as freshman, .., senior); backgrounding in economics and other fields, especially the natural resource sciences; and interests. This balancing works to better ensure the team members will be able to work together in productive ways.

We also generally bring in a number of outside presenters, especially during the latter part of the semester. Videos and podcasts are also used to give overiviews and stir discussion. If you have suggestions for who we might invite, or videos and podcasts that you have found useful in helping in understanding a particular topic, please share these with us!

Bruff, D. Teaching with Classroom Response Systems: Creating Active Learning Environments. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, a Wiley Imprint, 2009.
Michaelson, L.K., Knight, A.B. and Fink, L.D. (Editors). Team-Based Learning: A Transformative Use of Small Groups in College Teaching. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing, LLC, 2004.

Click here for the Schedule of Topics covered in the Course