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Economics of Sustainability

Watershed managers, like all environmental professionals, often encounter decision points where economics and environmental protection must be considered together. This module (About PDF, 815K, 61 pages) covers seven topics that are relevant to the socioeconomic aspects of the watershed approach in issue papers developed in EPA's former Office of Policy, Planning and Evaluation. All are reproduced here in PDF file format.

The module's central theme is best expressed in The Economics of Sustainability Issue Brief, which reviews the differences between traditional mainstream economic concepts and economic viewpoints that incorporate more conscientious stewardship of the "natural capital" which sustains all life. The Environmental Protection and Jobs brief attempts to clarify the terms of the environment-employment debate, at local scales and economy-wide scales. In The Use of Economics in Environmental Decision-Making, some of the political history of environmental economics (particularly cost-benefit analysis) applied to government policy making is reviewed.

The module also offers how-to guidance on economic techniques. The Community Economic Profiles issue brief describes two methods for organizing economic data to profile a community, namely comparative benchmarking and trend analysis. The Value-Added Processing issue brief describes how communities can approach economic activities in ways that alter and add value to their resource base and local economy, and Conservation-Based Green Marketing illustrates three communities' own experiences with marketing "eco-friendly" products. Nature-Based Tourism describes the potential of this growing industry to bolster local economies while supporting environmental protection of some of our finest ecological resources.

These and other elements make the module a valuable stop for Watershed Academy visitors wishing to increase their understanding of environmental economic perspectives that can be applied to the long-term sustainability of watershed ecosystems and communities.

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