Teaching Economic and Environmental Sustainability
Updated: Oct 22, 2018
Few things jolt students to attention more than the simple question: Do you think there will be enough energy available to power your phone in the near future? The future for a typical student at Wells College (basically neither desperately poor nor exceedingly wealthy) seems not quite as bright as it did for students of my generation. It is likely to be energy short and climate compromised, with an increasing number of jobs eliminated by globalization and robots. The consequences of continuing to use fossil fuels spells potential catastrophe. As an economist, I live in a world of theory and evidence, and the evidence for peak oil and catastrophic climate change mounts daily. However many of my students do not share the same commitment to theory and data that I do. How does one get today’s students to look at the evidence and the theory and take seriously the consequences of their high-energy, disposable lifestyles, especially when the economic consequences of living within nature’s limits might mean fewer jobs at lower wages, more physical labor, and fewer conveniences?