Handbook of Environmental and Resource Economics
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Handbook of Environmental and Resource Economics

  • Elgar original reference

Edited by Jeroen C.J.M. van den Bergh

This major reference book comprises specially commissioned surveys in environmental and resource economics written by an international team of experts. Authoritative yet accessible, each entry provides a state-of-the-art summary of key areas that will be invaluable to researchers, practitioners and advanced students.
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Chapter 2: A Short History of Environmental and Resource Economics

T.D. Crocker


Thomas D.Crocker 1 Introduction As late as 300 years ago, nearly everyone was fatalistic about nature. Whatever transactions people undertook left all but their immediate environment and the social order in which they nested pretty much undisturbed (Chayanov, 1966; Sahlins, 1974). People lived in self-contained groups which left them few options but to adapt to the idiosyncrasies of their natural surroundings. Many were unlucky and suffered famine, flood and pestilence. The intellectual ferment of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment changed this. Over about two centuries the idea that the social order may influence nature - for good - spread over the world. A broad consensus that this same order may also influence nature for ill was reached only in the last half of the twentieth century. Though economists have studied the original endowment of the earth since the beginnings of their discipline, it took an awakening realization in 1950s North America that all was not well with the management of the region’s natural resource asset base to make environmental and resource economics (resource economics, for brevity) a distinct field. As in general economics the history of resource economics can be viewed as a sequence of thought experiments or models and organized empirical observations directed at a common set of questions about economic scarcity and thus choice. For resource economics the models and the findings are meant to explain the roles that the natural environment plays in decisions under the curse of Adam and Eve, decisions that are a universal problem of the...

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