Concepts in Stutz Chapter 3

Resources and Environment


1.    Key issue:  Why is there growing concern that human economic activities in developed and developing countries are depleting resources and irreparably degrading the physical environment?

a.     How did we get in this situation?

b.     What can we do about it?


2.    What are the limits, if any, to growth?

a.     Optimists versus pessimists on the role of resources and technology

b.     Is there sustainable economic development as opposed to growth-oriented development?

c.     How can we maximize human well-being with a minimum of material consumption?

d.     Human development index:


Resources and Population 


1.    The link between resources and economic growth

a.     Resources are needed to support an affluent way of life

b.     What is the resource cost of a basket of goods?  Middle-class basket cost six times higher than for essential basket.

c.     Are current generations better off at the expense of future generations?

d.     What about the distribution of ‘well-being’ among the population?


2.    Carrying capacity and Overpopulation

a.     Carrying capacity is what economist call a ‘stationary state’ of economic growth-

b.     A stationary state will occur without the grace of modern technology.

c.     The second law of thermodynamics says that global energy is fixed.

d.     Fossil fuels versus solar and wind power?  What about hydrogen fuel cells?

e.     Can a developed nation live above its carrying capacity without lowering the carrying capacity of developing countries?


Types of Resources and Their Limits


1.    Resources include all materials of the environment that someday may be used under future technological and

     socioeconomic conditions.

a.     Resources are nonrenewable, such as fossil fuels, or renewable, such as vegetation.

b.     Renewable is not automatic and may be depleted through misuse or exploitation, such as over fishing.


2.    Reserves are resources that are known and available with current technologies and at current prices.

a.     Projected reserves are reserves based on expected future price trends and available technologies.

b.     Uncertainty of existence and cost of reserves increases with resource use.


Food Resources


1.    Worldwide hunger.  Global food production has been increasing faster than population, but world hunger still exists because of need to overcome the past and the difficulty in food distribution to poorer nations.


2.    Causes of the food problem.

a.     Population growth in some countries, especially in Africa.

b.     Problems in transporting food without transportation infrastructure

c.     Problems of marketing and storage (hoarding by merchants to drive up price)

d.     Civil unrest diverts resources from civilian development to governments that have excess debt

e.     Agricultural productivity decline in poor countries due to deforestation and drought

f.      Distribution of food tied to wide dispersion of income in developing nations and increased

structure of agriculture industry toward export crops with income concentrated in a few hands.


3.    Policies to increase food production

a.     Expanding the cultivated area (potential to double, but may lead to desertification.

b.     Expanding productivity of existing cropland

c.     Bio-engineered hybrid crops, fertilization, pesticides, herbicides may have adverse effects on health or environment.


4.    The economic problem:  More focus should be placed on the ability of the poor to buy food and changes in the structure of land holdings of the population in developing countries.


5.    Creating new food sources.

a.     Cultivate the oceans

b.     Develop high-protein cereal crops

c.     Expand use of underused food sources, including soybean derivatives, like tofu, or fish meal (currently turned into animal feed or fertilizer.


Nonrenewable Mineral Resources


1.    Minerals are inorganic (as opposed to organic, such as oil) substances naturally occurring in the earth’s crust.

a.     The U.S. is running short of domestic sources of strategic minerals vital to defense and modern technology.

b.     Mineral supplies are stockpiled and import demands affected by domestic exploration and mining technology.

c.     Transmaterialization of new technologies—use of graphite, clay, and silicon (fiber optics) rather than metals (copper).

d.      Environmental degradation may be affected by domestic exploration (open-pit mines and quarries).




     1.  Oil Dependency (Global oil supplies to the U.S.)

a.     Oil accounts for about one-quarter of world trade.

b.      Energy shocks impact of domestic economies.

c.     Transition of political power affect by the international oil market and OPEC.

d.     The U.S., Japan, and Europe consume more energy than they produce.

e.     The U.S. consumes roughly one-fourth of the world’s energy (with 5% of World’s population)


2.    Coal and Natural Gas

a.     U.S. natural gas reserves are limited

b.     Coal is abundant but causes more problems, including pollution, mining costs, transport costs, difficulty of meeting mobile demands (can be used to create electricity)


3.    Future energy policy? When Will the Joy Ride End?

a.     Market response to higher cost of fossil fuels?

b.     More conservation (fuel efficient cars?)

c.     Alternative energy sources (nuclear, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind, biomass)     


Environmental Degradation


1.  Environmental Awareness—1962, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring

a.      EPA in July 1970 when President Nixon consolidated 5 departments and agencies.

b.     The new age environmentalists began in the late 80s when concern developed over survival rather than merely the quality of life. Concern trickled down from the affluent to the socially repressed. (Lead content in South Oak Cliff.)

c.     Equity and sustainable growth were adopted concepts and information was successfully mobilized along with political resources even during the Reagan years.  (Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002.)


2.    Pollution is the discharge of waste gases and chemicals into the air and water.

a.     Air pollution is local, regional, and global based on the type of discharge.

b.     Water pollution is from point sources and non-point sources (agricultural runoff—Waco water supply   controversy)


3.    Wildlife and habitat preservation (tradeoff with economic development)

4.    Nonrenewable natural resource management (pit-mining, oil spills, recycling)

5.    Environmental equity and sustainable development.

a.     Emphasis by developed countries on the long-run rather than the short-run

b.     Need to internalize environmental costs

c.     Question of redistribution of wealth in short-run and long-run (future generations)

d.     Focus on different set of values and priorities?  Or do you shape behavior by changing its ‘price’

e.     Need to recognize the need for integration and compromise