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Environmental Economics: ECON 2505 Fall 2014. Course Profile Home Course Syllabus Weekly Assignments Community-based Environmental Research. Assignment: Community based Environmental Research Project: Brooklyn Assignment Description :

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Environmental Economics: ECON 2505

Fall 2014

Course Profile Home Course Syllabus Weekly Assignments Community-based Environmental Research


Assignment: Community based Environmental Research Project: Brooklyn

  • Assignment Description:
  • Students will spend a day outside of class conducting research in teams of two or three assessing the economic impact of an environmental project or environmental challenge that involves a local community.
  • Examples of such research might include:
  • A visit to a rooftop garden, a community open space project, a green designed building, a super-fund site, community improvement project, a community resource problem (i.e. ‘food deserts’), or an investigation of the environmental and economic impact of an unexpected environmental event (i.e., the economic costs of Hurricane Sandy on a local community, its businesses, residents and the local ecosystem).

Conducting the Research:

  • A number of the sources/organizations are affiliated with the Brooklyn Waterfront Research Center.
  • However, students are encouraged to make choices that reflect their interests and thoughts about how the venue they have chosen relates to a particular course topic.
  • Research will involve a visit to the site and a set of questions to guide students’ field-based research.
  • The sites or communities visited, the people, businesses, and organizations students meet and speak with either informally or formally (as in a brief interview), will vary with the type of project undertaken.
  • Students are encouraged to think independently and creatively, and to brainstorm and develop additional questions of their own.

Documentation of Research and tie-in with semester project:

  • In the course of their day of community research, students will be asked to document their findings in a number of formats: Ex:photographs; detailed descriptions of observations; comments/quotesfrom people interviewed.
  • Ideally, (optionally) a blog post on the course site on Open Lab.
  • Students will use Open Lab to post brief summaries of their research findings(the sites they visited, the central goals of their research, and how their findings relate to a particular course topic). Example: a visit to a community with few healthy food options would be reviewed in terms of specific questions for that project (i.e. What are the economic costs to communities lacking adequate access to healthy food choices)?
  • The research that students conduct for this project will be an important resource to be incorporated into the end of semester research project.
  • The project would be undertaken about mid-semester after students have heard from some of the guest lecturers in other disciplines who will present on specific topics related to the course theme: Economic policy and technology: Advancing the goals of sustainability.


  • Food Deserts: a visit to a community with few healthy food options would be reviewed in terms of specific questions :
  • What are the economic costs to communities lacking adequate access to healthy food choices? The emphasis here is not on coming up with a numerical value, but a thoughtful discussion of the qualitative effects: potential health impacts; the probability of a greater incidence of health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, etc. that have been associated with lack of healthy food choices).
  • 2) If there is a greater incidence of health related effects, how does this have a potential economic impact? (i.e., health care costs because of more visits to medical providers; inability to work due to poor health; reproducing similar food choices for the next generation); How do these potentially translate into increased economic costs over time?
  • 3) What changes can be made at the local community level to increase food choices for residents?

Climate change issues:

  • Example –the environmental and economic impact of Hurricane Sandy on a coastal community in Brooklyn (or elsewhere in NY);
  • what were the principal economic impacts as measured by losses to local businesses, homes of residents, ecological impact caused by land erosion, ecosystem damage, and the economic costs of rebuilding and replacing.
  • Are there any resources that are projected to be difficult to replace or regain? Why?
  • Superfund sites:
  • 1)What are the multidimensional economic costs of ground and water pollution in the local community?
  • 2) What has been the estimated cost in terms of resource loss over time?
  • 3)What specific resources have been destroyed, compromised or deemed unusable?
  • 4)How has the problem directly impacted local businesses and residents over time?
  • 5)Is there an estimated value of losses to business?
  • 6) What are the estimated costs of cleanup and restoration?

Restaurants/tourism: Visit to a local restaurant or tourism site in the City that practices some form of environmentally conscious business practices:

  • 1)What are the specific practices that the business engages in? (obtaining only locally sourced produce, meats, fish, etc.?
  • 2)What does the business view as the economic benefits and cost savings of these practices?
  • 3)How does support of local farms, farmers’ markets, wineries, etc. benefit this and other local businesses?
  • 4)Are there cost savings from transport by buying local?
  • 5)What are the larger environmental benefits of such practices? (for instance, if increasing numbers of eateries engaged in such practices, think about what the larger economic benefit might be).

Building design and land use:

  • Cost savings from environmentally conscious/green design and resource use
  • What are the principal energy sources?
  • Are they primarily non-carbon based fuel sources such as solar/wind/other?
  • What resources in the building are recycled and how? (i.e. building’s air; water, other).
  • Are their annual cost savings for the building’s operations relative to the use of traditional design and resource use?
  • If the building is a business, how have cost savings to the business been estimated?
  • If a residential building, are there cost savings to the residents? (i.e., lower electric, heating bills? 7)Other cost reductions?)
  • How are these comparative cots calculated? What are the estimated environmental benefits as measured by the emission of fossil fuels? Reduction in hazardous wastes?

Rooftop gardens and green spaces:

  • 1.What are the economic benefits?
  • 2.Does the increasing inclusion of green space on building rooftops conserve energy?
  • 3.Explain technically how this process works. How does it work to cool structures? How does it work to help retain heat?
  • 4.Can these benefits be measured in terms of economic cost savings to the businesses and/or residential buildings that use them?
  • 5.What are the economic benefits of food sourcing using roof space?
  • 6.Who benefits from the fruit, vegetables and herbs that are grown? (how are they distributed)? How can this benefit be measured?

Learning Goals:

  • To make real connections between the theoretical study of environmental challenges to the U.S. and global economy and the actual experience of these challenges by starting at the local level.
  • By observing and studying first-hand, students have the opportunity to document and then think about the multi-dimensional effects on the local community/economy and their implications for the larger economy.
  • Students apply what they have learned from their research to larger economic questions such as the long-term economic costs of pollution and ecosystem damage, or the benefits of green innovation, and the extent to which local communities are involved in making key decisions that could potentially affect long-term economic outcomes.

General Education SLOs:

  • Depth of knowledge
  • Engage in an in-depth, focused, and sustained program of study.
  • Lifelong learning
  • Acquire tools for lifelong learning—how to learn, how they learn, knowledge of resources
  • Inquiry/ Analysis
  • Derive meaning from experience, as well as gather information from observation.
  • Information literacies
  • Gather, Interpret, evaluate, and apply information discerningly from a variety of sources.
  • Integrate learning
  • Make meaningful and multiple connections among the liberal arts and between the liberal arts and the areas of study leading to a major or profession.
  • Professional/Personal development
  • Work with teams, including those of diverse composition. Build consensus. Respect and use creativity.
  • Community/Civic engagement
  • Apply knowledge and analyze social, political, economic, and historical issues.

High Impact Educational Practices:

  • Collaborative assignments and projects
  • Undergraduate research culminating in an end-of-semester class poster presentation project (or projects)
  • Service/community-based learning
  • Capstone course and projects
  • Open digital pedagogy – Open Lab
  • Place-based learning