Economics of Sustainability: Course Sequence Home Page

Summary: This is the home page for the sequence of activities in MASS50201. This extends the schedule and provides more detailed notes. The page will change as the course proceeds.

Syllabus | Schedule

Course Overview

The schedule provides the specific dates for activities of the current offering of MASS50201. This support page provides more detailed notes that extend the information offered in the schedule. Think of this as a working document that will change more than the schedule. The student will find here recomended supplementary readings and will glimpse background readings that support the content and delivery of the course.


The introduction and the business of the course will orient the student and provde Q. and A. The syllabus and the schedule will be explained in detail. For an overview, please see in advance my lecture notes on approaching economics for sustainability and lecture notes on the economic strategies for sustainability. I will have to review this material quickly to save time for other activities. We will return to these notes in the next class session.

The second half of the first class will be devoted to a role playing simuation on Sustainable Development, Hitana Bay. The game was developed by Professor Lawrence Susskind of MIT. The game will acquaint us with problems and processes enountered in designing a consensus plan for Sustainable Development. The shared experience will provide a concrete case study hat we can refer to as the course proceeds. We will have some fun along the way!

Part I: Economics and Sustainability | Approaching the Economics of Sustainability: One Week

I will explain how I frame the Economics of Sustainability. See my lecture notes on approaching economics for sustainability and lecture notes on the economic strategies for sustainability. We will then discuss Dalton, George, ed., Primitive, Archaic and Modern Economies: Essays of Karl Polanyi: Aristotle Discover the Economy, chapter 5, pp. 78-115. Oikos as ecology and as economy; survey of the fields of ecological and environmental economics. By now, I hope that we have a concrete grasp of economics as a kit of tools, practical and conceptual, that supports sustainability.

This sets up a timely empirical reading: Annie Leonard's The Story of Stuff. We will view together the 22-minute video. Leonard critically examines an important economic category, consumption (which by definition uses up stuff), but she organizes consumption according to the production cycle, from exraction to waste disposal. Conventional economics hones in on what I call the market moment, rather than the total life-cycle process of commodities (stuff bought and sold in markets). I hope that you enjoy Annie's treatment, but she is quite serious when she highlights what is unsustainable about both production and consumption.

By this time, I hope that we can take responsibility for joining me in explaining and understanding the readings with a process of respondent who will help to explain the readings and get a conversation going.

The Brundtland Report: Our Common Future: Two Weeks

The seminal 1987 report was out of print and unavailable for a very long time. I read it online myself. However, in September, 2010, Oxford University Press re-printed this essential document that defined Sustainable Development and ultimately started the sustainability movement. This is a must read for MASS. The thorough report, less dated than you might think, provides us all with essential understanding of why we are here. To me, this is the textbook on Sustainable Development. The report embeds economics in the social and ecological settings, totally consistent with the approach to Economics of Sustainability taken here. Development, of course, refers essentially to economic development.

We will tackle the first two of the report's three sessions in one class and leave the final section for a second class session. I will invite a guest, Harris Gleckman, who was staff to the Brundtland Commission to join us then. Dr. Gleckman was recently the Director of United Nation Conference on Trade And Development and is currently a senior UN consultant on climate change.

I would also like to engage in an examination of a recent update on Sustainable Development by Wolfgang Sachs, Fairness in a Fragile World: A Memo on Sustainability. I find this essay a remarkablly insightful of the original thrust defined by Brundtland.

Introduction to Ecological Economics

The classic book that defines ecological economics is Herman Daly's venerable Beyond Growth:, Intro. and chapters 1 through 5; Peter Montague: Sustainable Development in Six Parts, pp. 59-86; also available on-line: Part I, II, III, IV, V, VI; Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen, The Entropy Law and the Economic Problem, chapter 3, pp. 75-88; Prof. Hayes's lecture notes on ecolological economics.

Part II: Best Practices in the Economics of Sustainability

Part II asks that you contribute a research project demonstrating how to promote the economics of sustainability. The preferred mode of Part II will be seminar rather than lecture/discussion.

The second part of MASS50201 will focus on case studies on the practice of economics in building a sustainable world. The student will write a term paper of at least 12 pages. Each student will present to the class and provide a term paper at the conclusion of the semester. The paper is due on May 9. The oral presentations (proposal, progress, final) count 16 points and the paper counts 32. The particulars of the schedule for Part II are still tentative but the structure seems firm. (The attention to workshops within a seminar format is based on my experience in my MBA course, Business and the Environment.)

  1. March 21: Essays on Part I due; organizational meeting on final presentations; presentation of topics; Jack Ward, Compression Theory
  2. March 28, April 4: April project workshops; status reports; Prof. Hayes: working notes on the green economy; Fred Curtis, Professor of Economics, Drew University
  3. April 4: Professor Hayes on Economic Strategies for Sustainability 2.0
  4. April 11: final workshop and progress reports
  5. April 18 & 25 and May 2 (last class): final presentations.
  6. May 9: Final paper due (this is exam week)

©Wayne Hayes, Ph.D. | Initialized: 11/28/2010 | Last Update: 11/29/2010 | V. 0.2, Build #3