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Environmental Economists


Economics focuses on how specific amounts of goods and services are used to meet people's needs and desires. The Greek philosopher Plato wrote about satisfying the growing needs of society by dividing the labor among people. In The Republic, he discussed how people are not inherently self-sufficient and that cooperating with others in their labor and exchanging goods and services would create a more economical society.

The theory of economics took root in 1776, when Scottish economist and moral philosopher Adam Smith described free trade as a way to achieve an orderly and logical economic system. In his work The Wealth of Nations, Smith expressed the belief that people who are granted permission to trade freely won't create chaos. This belief has been interpreted as favorable to reducing government restrictions on trade, which is known as laissez-faire capitalism. Many economists believe, however, that corruption and monopolistic practices are reduced when government regulations are in place.

Environmental economics as a sub-field of economics emerged in the 1960s and 1970s. It was during this time that society's awareness of the environment grew and many environmental laws were enacted to help reduce pollution and damage to the air, water, land, people, and animals. The Environmental Protection Agency, for example, was created in 1970, with a mission to protect human health and the environment. In the decades since, the environmental economist profession has become recognized as important in the understanding of environmental policies and the creation of beneficial, cost-effective sustainability practices.

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