At the foundation of the necessity for environmental studies, nature conservation, and any resource concern is the existence of externalities. It puts a name to the idea that not all costs and benefits of an action are borne by the actor. These can be positive effects, however in environmental economics what is usually focused upon are negative externalities, such as trans-boundary pollution, or inherent environmental costs overlooked by the market, resulting in failures. Even in discussing “green” technologies and renewable energy sources it is difficult to account for every external cost. Without an understanding and proper valuation of natural resources, we cannot hope for anything but an inverse relationship between economic development and environmental protection. In every facet of my studies I run up against this issue, from ecology to economics, climate change to philosophy.
Great strides are being taken, however, by countries investing in greenhouse gas accounting to corporate environmental profit and loss accounts (of which Puma is a forerunner). Take a look at this recent Guardian article for more information on externalities and working towards overcoming them.