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Injecting power dynamics and biodiversity protection into elementary microeconomics


  • David Martin

    (Department of Economics, Davidson College)


Microeconomic theory is applied to protecting the biodiversity that conservation biologists have identified as important and threatened in several ways, including creating market values for ecosystem services and providing incentives for local people to protect habitats. Yet, economists frequently ignore the power dynamics inherent in the social systems involved with the biodiversity measures they propose and assess, which brings them into conflict with political ecologists. To bridge this gap between economists, political ecologists, and conservation biologists, I discuss how to frame the important introductory microeconomic topics of consumer sovereignty and the equimarginal rule with the additions of the type of power dynamics commonly used by political ecologists. I use the topics of shade grown coffee and the Noah’s Ark framework, both very familiar to conservation biologists, to place this discussion within the context of protecting biodiversity. I conclude that introducing these topics will better serve the biodiversity analysts who take only the economics principles course.

Suggested Citation

  • David Martin, 2020. "Injecting power dynamics and biodiversity protection into elementary microeconomics," Working Papers 20-03, Davidson College, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:dav:wpaper:20-03

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Norman Myers & Russell A. Mittermeier & Cristina G. Mittermeier & Gustavo A. B. da Fonseca & Jennifer Kent, 2000. "Biodiversity hotspots for conservation priorities," Nature, Nature, vol. 403(6772), pages 853-858, February.
    2. Weber, Jeremy G., 2011. "How much more do growers receive for Fair Trade-organic coffee?," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(5), pages 678-685.
    3. Sanjay V. Lanka & Iqbal Khadaroo & Steffen Böhm, 2017. "Agroecology accounting: biodiversity and sustainable livelihoods from the margins," Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 30(7), pages 1592-1613, September.
    4. Hernandez-Aguilera, J. Nicolas & Conrad, Jon M. & Gómez, Miguel I. & Rodewald, Amanda D., 2019. "The Economics and Ecology of Shade-grown Coffee: A Model to Incentivize Shade and Bird Conservation," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 159(C), pages 110-121.
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    More about this item


    Biodiversity protection; consumer sovereignty; equimarginal rule; shade grown coffee; Noah’s Ark;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • Q57 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Ecological Economics
    • A12 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Relation of Economics to Other Disciplines
    • A13 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Relation of Economics to Social Values

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