Hi all -
I sometimes feel like I repeat myself in some of these Friday emails. But some things are worth repeating. For instance, the breadth of scholarship that our faculty continue to turn out continues to impress me.
Here's a smattering of papers, just in the past couple of weeks, from faculty in Our Environmental Program. I'm sure I'm missing some stuff. If I am, please let me know!
Cecilia Danks and colleagues published a paper in Forest Products Journal on relationships among pellet mills, home-owner satisfaction, and all of the moving pieces that come between the mills and homeowners in New England.
Abstract. Our study examined relationships among pellet mills, bulk delivery companies, and high-efficiency pellet boiler equipment firms in northern New England as they relate to homeowner satisfaction, using social network analysis and the concept of supply chain management. The continual growth of supply and demand for automated pellet heating requires a careful match between innovative technologies and homeowner needs; these involve multiple factors and require collaboration among firms. Using interview data with managers from pellet mills, bulk delivery companies, and equipment firms in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, we found fifteen firms that are connected through both a transaction network and an informal business interaction network. The networks were characterized by short paths and no obvious sign of centralization. Network statistics reported for each network included density, clustering coefficient, and degree-, closeness- and betweenness- centrality. Most firms in the supply networks shared customer satisfaction information (average number of information sending ties = 3) and considered collaboration in customer services important (mean = 4.4, on a five-point scale). However, equipment firms initiated more information sharing than other types, and bulk delivery companies were in the best position in the supply network to promote collaborative customer services. Opportunities exist to improve communication between pellet mills and equipment firms, leading to a robust automated pellet heating supply chain, strong demand, and subsequent homeowner satisfaction.
Brendan Fisher, his PhD student Hilary, and a veritable who's who of conservation scientists have an interesting paper on the intersections among environmental challenges, economics, psychology, and decision making. The paper is published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, and maybe you can see it here. It's called Nudging pro‐environmental behavior: evidence and opportunities.
Abstract. Human behavior is responsible for many of our greatest environmental challenges. The accumulated effects of many individual and household decisions have major negative impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem health. Human behavioral science blends psychology and economics to understand how people respond to the context in which they make decisions (eg who presents the information and how it is framed). Behavioral insights have informed new strategies to improve personal health and financial choices. However, less is known about whether and how these insights can encourage choices that are better for the environment. We review 160 experimental interventions that attempt to alter behavior in six domains in which decisions have major environmental impacts: family planning, land management, meat consumption, transportation choices, waste production, and water use. The evidence suggests that social influence and simple adjustments to decision settings can influence pro‐environmental decisions. We identify four important gaps in the evidence that provide opportunities for future research. To address these gaps, we encourage collaborations between researchers and practitioners that look at the effects of embedding tests of behavior‐change interventions within environmental programs.
Brendan has another paper in Frontiers entitled Stranded capital: environmental stewardship is part of the economy, too. I personally think that last comma is superfluous, but grammar scholars can agree to disagree.
Abstract. The many values that humans place on biodiversity are widely acknowledged but difficult to measure in practice. We address this problem by quantifying the contribution of marine‐related environmental stewardship, in the form of donations and volunteer hours, to the economy of coastal Massachusetts. Our conservative evaluation suggests that marine stewardship activities contributed at least $179 million to the state economy in 2014, a figure that exceeded revenues derived in that same year from commercial finfish operations ($105 million) and whale watching ($111 million), two acknowledged cornerstones of the regional economy. Almost imperceptibly, the coastal economy has been transformed from one dependent on commercial exchange to a diverse economy that includes, to a large measure, marine stewardship. Donations and volunteer efforts are useful indicators of environmental values that can be hard to quantify,and represent one measure of human determination to protect the planet.
Jon Erickson has a paper in the journal Global Environmental Change about the accumulation of Phosphorus in Vermont from 1925 to 2012. The paper is entitled Phosphorus flows and legacy accumulation in an animal-dominated agricultural region from 1925 to 2012, and it's here.
Abstract. Phosphorus (P) is a scarce but critical input for agriculture, yet its overuse can lead to water quality degradation. Most P applied as fertilizer and manure binds to soils, accumulating over time, constituting a legacy source with implications for mitigating nutrient pollution. To investigate how the flows and balance of P evolved over a period of rapidly changing technology, agricultural practices, and land cover, we modeled P flows in Vermont’s dairy-dominated agricultural system at county- and state-levels from 1925 to 2012. An important dairy exporter, Vermont faces water quality challenges complicated by a mismatch between the scale of the market and that of policymaking, a common occurrence in export-oriented agricultural regions. Over the period analyzed, agricultural soils accumulated at >1000 tonnes of P annually, accruing a legacy stock >230,000 tonnes. The peak surplus of 4439 tonnes occurred in 1950, declining to 1493 tonnes per annum in 2012. Legacy P accumulation at the state-level ranged from <1 to> 16 kg ha−1, depending on year and measurement method. The decline in total P surplus reflects an 82% decline in fertilizer use that was partly offset by an increase in animal feed imports, the largest source of P entering Vermont since 1982. Despite declining inputs, milk output doubled, evidence of increased P use efficiency. Simultaneously, animal unit density increased by >250%, enabled by rising feed imports. While feed is imported and milk exported, manure remains in Vermont; hence, Vermont soils continue to accrue legacy P at rates > 5 kg ha−1, undermining efforts to reduce P runoff and achieve water quality targets. We discuss the governance, management, and policy implications, outlining opportunities to improve input accountability to address the persistent P imbalance. We highlight constraints facing regional policymakers due to increased embeddedness in commodity trade networks.
Jon has another important paper in Ecological Economics entitled Genuine Economic Progress in the United States: A Fifty State Study and Comparative Assessment. It's here.
The Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) was designed to reveal the economic, social, and environmental trade-offs associated with conventional economic growth as traditionally measured by Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Although originally designed for use at the national scale, an interest has developed in the United States in a state-level uptake of the GPI to inform and guide policy. This study presents the first fifty-state estimate for U.S. GPI in order to address questions over its design, implementation, and ultimate potential as a tool to guide state level economic policy. Following a review of the current state of analysis and critique of GPI, we provide an overview of methodology and database development. Results are then presented, including discussion of lessons learned through a fifty-state application. The paper concludes with suggestions for further research and next steps to consolidating a consistent methodology.
If you would like to work with Nate
Please email him a summary of your research experience and research goals, along with a CV.