I am very grateful to the Hyogo Overseas Research Network (HORN) Project for providing funding for me to visit Kobe University as an Invited Foreign Researcher in the Graduate School of Economics. I taught a group of international students a new eight-week course called “Ecological Resource Economics,” which introduced students to the economic approach to analyzing and modeling ecological natural resource management problems.
My class of twenty students came from all over the world, including the Netherlands, Denmark, Indonesia, Germany, China, Scotland, England, and of course Japan. The students were a mix of advanced undergraduate students studying economics or business, and masters or early program Ph.D. students in related programs.
The course began with the economic framework for solving environmental challenges, beginning with property rights and externalities. The lessons
that followed covered the evaluation of tradeoffs including benefit-cost analysis and other decision-making metrics, as well as methods for valuing the environment. After covering the topics of dynamic efficiency and sustainable development, the remainder of the course was dedicated to solutions to natural resource management models, beginning with depletable resources, then moving to water and other renewable resources such as fisheries ad forests. The final lesson covered ecosystem services and biodiversity. For the majority of students, this was their first exposure to many of these topics, especially regarding natural resource management models. The class was designed with participation as a major element (25% of their final grade), which encouraged a healthy amount of discussion and student engagement in class. 25% of their final grade was weekly homework assignments which I used to provide feedback to students to make progress on their final projects and presentations, which comprised the remaining 50% of their grade.
Aside from teaching, I was able to enjoy the many wonderful activities the Kobe area has to offer, including a beautiful hike with Prof. Kenji Takeuchi in the Rokko Mountains, as well as a Japanese-style beach barbeque at nearby Ashiya Hama with Assoc. Prof. David Wolf and his family and friends.
Our eight-week class concluded with short presentations from each of the twenty students, presenting research projects that we had been working on together from the first week of class. I was pleasantly surprised with the depth and breadth of these projects, most of them based on real environmental challenges from the student’s home countries, ranging from shark finning bans in Indonesia to the benefits and costs of wind farms in Denmark, to decisions regarding fracking in the U.K. All of the students showed a clear understanding of how to use economic tools to evaluate ecological and environmental challenges around the world, and gained a greater appreciation of the importance of integrating economic and ecological indicators into linked management models in order to improve outcomes for both systems. Based on the coursework throughout the quarter as well as the final papers and the final presentations on the last day of class, I believe the class was overall very successful. I received a number of heartwarming and encouraging messages from students after the last day of class, including: “Thank you so much for your feedback and classes the past 8 weeks. I have learned a lot of new things and it was definitely the most enjoyable course I have followed here at Kobe University!” “Thank you so much for the past 2 months! I am glad that I took this class, it was really interesting. Thank you & best of luck for you too!” “Thank you so much for this wonderful quarter!” I am deeply indebted to Hyogo Overseas Research Network (HORN) for the funding.