Environmental Economics


My internship was with the Suffolk County Department of Economic Development and Planning in New York. My mentor, Dorian Dale, is the Director of Sustainability and Chief Recovery Officer. Initially, I had an idea of what I would be doing, but I didn’t realize that my internship would potentially catalyze a change in my life, as well as those of many other individuals. The scope of my internship was focused around the County’s ‘Reclaim Our Water’ (ROW) initiative. Suffolk County Executive, Steve Bellone, delegated its mission statement as follows: “We are a county that will no longer allow our water quality crisis to go unaddressed but will come together to Reclaim Our Water.” My initial tasks were to draft logos, generate public service announcements, and even facilitate the allocation of the county’s budget for ROW paraphernalia i.e., bumper stickers, decals, water bottles, pennants, coolers and t-shirts, all emblazoned with the slogan ‘Reclaim Our Water’. Ideally, we were to be out in the field—boots on the ground—spreading awareness, and giving ROW goods to the public at the best places possible: Suffolk County State beaches up and down the coast of Long Island, New York. Unfortunately, internal bureaucratic setbacks hampered the county’s initiative from being placed into progressive action this past summer. Although it thwarted the progression of ROW this summer, it allowed me to develop a project of my own.

With the unforeseen addition of free time and the presence of a positive mentor—Dorian Dale—to augment my mission building process, I took the crux of ROW and placed a personal spin on it. For the past 5 years I have traveled with a medical mission to the Sacred Valley in Urubamba, Peru. It was there that I first witnessed the discrepancies in the quality of life, and more specifically, the decline in water quality. In response to my internship being so focused on water quality, I figured I could start my own mission, Potable Peru. Its mission statement would be “To provide a year’s worth of potable water for at least 600 children living in Urubamba, Peru by raising funds to purchase 20 Lifestraw® water filtration devices”. By realizing what I wanted to do, I drew up a non-profit business plan with my mentor’s help and established a real life business plan.

The internship of 2016 was fulfilling, and I felt accomplished by the time it concluded. My experience at the Suffolk County Department of Economic Development and Planning had put me in a suitable place where I was both mentally and physically aware of the state of water quality in my backyard—Long Island. But it also made me aware of the difference I could make in Peru. As of now, I am still in the fundraising process for Potable Peru and I have generated funds equivalent to 9 Lifestraw® devices or nearly 42,000 gallons of purified water.


By Nick Coristidis


Estimating the Effect of Climate Change on Rhode Island Agriculture (the $97 million question)

Pretty much everyone knows about climate change and many have some idea what the changes will be. But it’s unclear what the costs of climate change will be to Rhode Island. During the spring 2014 semester, I studied the economics of climate change in Dr. Corey Lang’s EEC 355 class. A major component of this course was a semester-long project working to monetize the impacts of climate change in Rhode Island. My group examined RI agriculture, while other groups studied topics such as fisheries and maritime transportation.

The first of four parts of the project involved researching the background of the sector. For agriculture, this entailed its worth to the state in terms of number of jobs, percentage of annual revenue along with the appropriate figures, and the prevalence of the industry in the state including its market base and variety of cultivated goods. Research into past data from the Rhode Island Census Bureau and the USDA agricultural cash receipts revealed that agriculture in Rhode Island makes up 0.5% of Rhode Island’s industry ($17.6 million), and 2,396 people rely on agriculture in Rhode Island to make a living.

The second task was to research the basic science of climate change in order to examine which impacts would most affect the state and sector in question. We found that the biggest threats to Rhode Island’s agriculture were not in simple temperature change alone, but in that and the changing weather patterns that could potentially change the state’s growing season averages.

The third part of the project was the most involved. The impacts were examined and monetized to determine the overall impacts to the state caused by climate change. We chose a number of impacts that form the majority of the sector’s worth: greenhouses, nurseries and turf (64.5% of Rhode Island’s agricultural revenue), corn (5.8%), dairy products (2.7-3%), and apples (2.6%). Depending on the impact chosen, different methods were used to assess their monetary value. Once the initial value was determined, it was discounted to the present day and totaled to find an all-encompassing total value with a present-day discount value. After research and projection, we estimated that climate change by the end of the century would cause an estimated revenue loss of $227,458,890.00. This translates to a total present value of $96,664,001.71 at a 1% social discount rate.

Lastly, we explored how adaptation could cushion or eliminate the negative effects of climate change on agriculture. We looked specifically at the use of genetically modified crops (GMOs), irrigation, increased use of greenhouses and the use of crop insurance. The increased use of GMOs was determined to be more detrimental than helpful and was dismissed as a likely tactic for use. The other options underwent cost-benefit analysis to determine whether or not the plan was an appropriate solution. We came to the conclusion that all of the remaining adaption plans would provide some benefit if they were all used moderately.

Though I took the course as an elective, I found this course and project essential to my education as an ENRE student. The project encouraged me to learn core competencies needed in the field of Environment and Natural Resource Economics and in my future career. Students involved in this project hone important skills from writing to cost/benefit analysis to excel. I personally learned a valuable lesson in group work and developed skills that will remain with me as an asset in my search for a career and in my daily work to follow.


by: Ellen Richer ’16

Environmental & Natural Resource Economics & General Business Double Major

Sustainability Minor

August 5th, 2014