Environmental Economics Class goes Global

February 10, 2017

Students in GCC’s new online course Environmental Economics are not the only ones learning from long-time Economics and Business Professor Martha Field. Field has taught Environmental Economics at GCC for many years and has recently offered it for the first time as an online course. Now, GCC students and students across the globe will use the same textbook Field co-authored with her husband Barry C. Field. First published in 1994, and now in its 7th edition, the Fields’ Environmental Economics textbook has been translated into Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, and is used in college classrooms in many countries.

What’s it all about?

While many students are concerned about environmental issues, they haven’t had a chance to consider the economic realities of addressing environmental issues and the trade-offs that sometimes must take place. This course helps students learn basic principles and tools to apply to any environmental issue. For example, mediation can be a critical tool in addressing any environmental issue. Being able to sit down with people who hold opposite views and really understand all sides of an issue is an important skill.

As an introductory course, it does not require a background in economics or environmental science. Students of all ages from a wide range of majors can take the course. While many students may have studied the environment from social and biology perspectives, this course provides the economic view. It centers on the question of how we make choices about environmental policies given scarce resources that must meet a wide range of other needs. Like Fields’ textbook, environmental issues are not contained by state or country borders. For example, air pollution produced in one state or country may impact the air and water quality in a different state or country. Acid rain that was created by emissions in the United States impacted the water quality of lakes in Canada. Climate change impacts all countries regardless of territorial borders.

Commenting on this semester’s course, Field said, “Given current proposed cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal environmental programs, one of my focuses in teaching this semester is to encourage students not to be discouraged or to lose enthusiasm. Despite cuts to the EPA, there are still avenues to be active in working to protect the environment, especially in the states. In Massachusetts, a push for carbon pricing and a carbon fee and rebate would require paying more for use of fossil fuels, but would be an incentive for cutting energy use, with fees offset with a rebate to assist those with limited incomes.”

Benefits of Online Courses?

Kathleen Vranos, Dean of Business, Information Technology, Social Sciences & Professional Studies, highlighted the importance of offering online courses in addition to the classroom. She said, “We know 82% of students work full-time while pursuing their degrees and certificates and 66% of students work part-time. We see online offerings often enable students to carry more credits, thereby attaining their credentials more quickly. Our faculty are listening to student needs and are working hard to create and deliver effective online learning opportunities to meet the region’s needs.”

Other areas of study to consider?

Reflecting on the importance of the Environmental Economics course and others like it, Mary Ellen Fydenkevez, Dean of Engineering, Math, Nursing and Science, says “In 2014, GCC was the national overall winner of the American Association of Community Colleges Sustainable Education and Economic Development Center’s Green Genome award. The college was lauded for its green infrastructure, its partnerships in sustainability in the community, and its development of curriculum in the community. The college received the award partly because it has developed courses like Environmental Economics and programs like Farm and Food Systems and Renewable Energy/Energy Efficiency to which both students and the community have responded in numbers and enthusiasm.”

If you are interested in the environment and economics courses and programs, here are a few other areas of study you many want to consider:

  • Liberal Arts/Economics option;
  • Liberal Arts/Environmental Science option;
  • Environmental Science Certificate;
  • Liberal Arts/Renewable Energy/Energy Efficiency option;
  • Renewable Energy/Energy Efficiency Certificate
  • Liberal Arts Farm and Food Systems option;
  • Liberal Arts/Plant and Social Science option;
  • Farm and Food Systems Certificate;

Learn more and apply online at www.gcc.mass.edu or 413-775-1801.

By Mary McClintock ’82