Category Archives: Environment

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 […]

Be Happy You Didn’t Live in 1870

Robert Gordon’s 2016 book The Rise and Fall of American Growth is a comprehensive history of “the U.S. standard of living since the civil war.”  Gordon, a Northwestern University economist, details changes in consumption of food, clothing, shelter, and transport during a period when Americans experienced unprecedented improvement in quality of life.  From brutally difficult, […]

Was the Internet a Good Idea?

I remember clearly my first inkling of something new called the world wide web.  I had recently started using email and two colleagues brought me a U.S. Department of Agriculture publication describing a new information system.   One would be able to use a computer and software that would “crawl” about looking for information stored on […]

The Wilderness Ethic

In many faith communities it is common for adherents to sacrifice.  The Shakers embraced celibacy, though some might find that a flawed “business plan” for the endurance of the sect.  Catholics for years avoided eating meat on Fridays, a practice good for fish mongers. Likewise, many Jews and Muslims forsake pork in their diets.  Dietary […]

Wild Lands: The Missing Piece in Maine’s Land Conservation Mosaic

Mainers are proud of our forest heritage and we often claim to be the “most forested” state in the Union.  Those forest lands are best thought of as a mosaic of uses and ownership types. We have industrial forest lands owned by corporations, families, and various investment schemes like Real Estate Investment Trusts.  Some lands […]

When Dollars Meet the Grizzly Bear Spirit

When most people hear the word economics they think of money.  I remember visiting a local Maine historical society and the excitement the caretaker felt when he learned that I was an economist.  He immediately assumed that I would want to see their collection of 19th Century currency in circulation in Maine.  I did not. […]

Actually, A National Energy Tax Would Be Good for Maine

In this season of interminable political ads, one Bruce Poliquin TV ad berates his opponent Emily Cain for supporting a “national energy tax.”  The ad says such a tax would be bad for Maine.  I do not know whether Emily Cain supports a national energy tax or not, but I do.  Contrary to the Poliquin […]

What the Wessie Phenomenon Says About Our Attitudes Toward Nature

One of the fun stories from Maine this year to help take our minds off natural disasters, Presidential elections, and ill-behaved Olympic athletes is the tale of Wessie.  In case you have been living under a rock, Wessie is the affectionate name given to the large snake reported in the Presumpscot River in Westbrook.  Reported […]