What It Means When Humans Impoverish Nature

In Henry Beston’s eloquent classic of nature writing, The Outermost House, he worried about the decline in birds he was seeing on the Great Beach of Cape Cod.  Even in the 1920s when he spent his year on the Beach, humans were adversely impacting birds and other parts of nature.  Beston identified a “new” danger:   […]

312 & 2,600,000,000

I am inspired by students from Dalhousie University in Halifax who have been getting tattoos.  These are simple tattoos, just three digits, placed somewhere conspicuous.  The number is the concentration of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere in their birth year.  Were I inclined to get a tattoo, mine would be 319. Since my birth […]

What Gets Measured, Counts

A few years ago I was visiting the museum of a local Maine historical society.  When the docent discovered I worked as an economist, he immediately wanted to show me their collection of early currency that had circulated in the community.  His assumption was that an economist would, of course, be interested in money.  I […]

Political Courage and Cowardice on Taxes

The trouble with taxes is that no one likes to pay them.  We want the services of government (good roads, public schools, national defense, a functioning court system, etc.) but would rather that someone else pay for these things.  Yet taxation is necessary in modern society.  Taxes are needed to fund what economists call public […]

Call Me a Luddite

Back in January I wondered out loud, Was the Internet a Good Idea?  To my way of thinking the information technology (IT) revolution of the past 25 years has been a mixed blessing.  It both created amazing tools for doing everyday tasks and introduced whole new means of mindless addiction and criminal opportunities. This IT […]

Reading Maine

For the New Year I have been reading again many of my old favorite works of fiction. Re-reading good books is a pleasure.  Included in my list are things like Alistair MacLeod’s No Great Mischief (the great Canadian novel?) and John LeCarre’s The Spy Who Came in From the Cold (every time I read the […]

Biomass Energy and Climate Change

The new administration in Washington is filled with climate change deniers.  They reject the consensus among scientists that human behaviors emitting greenhouse gases contribute significantly to climate change.  The reality — climate change is part of a larger problem better known as global change.  Over 9 billion humans, many living relatively sumptuous lifestyles like ours […]

The Most Important Economist You Probably Have Never Heard About

Economists become famous by winning the Nobel Prize (technically the Swedish National Bank’s Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel) or becoming public intellectuals like John Kenneth Galbraith or Paul Krugman.  But economists do not have to be famous to be important.  Significant contributions come in many guises. The most important economist you […]