Defining Value in a World of Diamonds and Foxglove

Last week, Freakonomics published a podcast entitled, “Diamonds Are a Marriage Counselor’s Best Friend.” It’s a great podcast and I’d recommend a listen, as it features a great exploration of how couples make decisions about money in the context of marriage. In addition to that, however, it covers a topic which I think is absolutely fascinating: the history of the value (or lack thereof) of diamonds. I think the example of diamonds is very instructive towards how we think about meaning and significance for all of the goods in our lives, but interesting as a standalone story as well.

I’ve written about this previously, but I’d like to bring my words up again as I think it’s a discussion worth having. Regardless of whether or not you disagree with the diamond industry, I believe that it is helpful to develop an understanding of how you determine value in your own life.

The Llama and the Cow

Wild Foxglove in the Quinault Rainforest – Photo by Me

A few weeks ago, my parents came to visit me in Seattle.  It was great to see them again, hang out with some family friends, and spend some time exploring the Pacific Northwest.  Never having been to Washington before this summer, one of the things we wanted to do was check out the rainforests in the Olympic Peninsula.  We settled on going for about a 5 mile hike in Quinault, since it was the easiest of the Olympic’s three rainforests to get to. Unfortunately, Quinault was a little bit disappointing.  There were fallen trees everywhere. So, instead of the shady canopy I had been expecting, we were met with fairly regular sunlight.  (It turns out that the area was hit with hurricane force winds in 2007, which was probably the source for many of the fallen trees we saw)

It…

View original post 1,411 more words

Advertisements

Freakonomics and the Jevons Paradox

bulb-15629_1280Do Energy Efficiency Improvements Make Us Use More Energy?

I was quite intrigued this week by the latest podcast offering from Freakonomics. Aside from their somewhat insulting “discovery” that the study of the environment isn’t diametrically opposed to that of economics (a conversation for another day), they put forward an engaging analysis of the effectiveness of energy efficiency. Their discussion centered around the work of Arik Levinson, an economist at Georgetown University. The gist of Freakonomics’ argument, based on Levinson’s work, is that California’s 1978 residential energy efficiency regulations did not result in a decrease in per capita electricity use, and that the differences between energy use in California and other states can be explained by a particular manifestation of the rebound effect: the Jevons paradox.

The podcast chronicles Levinson’s research on the impacts of these building codes, which was recently published in a working paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research. For the study, Levinson analyzed data around California’s housing regulations in three different ways. He says it best in his own words:

First, I compare[d] current electricity use by California homes of different vintages constructed under different standards, controlling for home size, local weather, and tenant characteristics. Second, I examine[d] how electricity in California homes varies with outdoor temperatures for buildings of different vintages. And third, I compare[d] electricity use for buildings of different vintages in California, which has stringent building energy codes, to electricity use for buildings of different vintages in other states.  All three approaches yield[d] the same answer: there is no evidence that homes constructed since California instituted its building energy codes use less electricity today than homes built before the codes came into effect.

Continue reading

About the Portfolio: The Economics of Waterway Development in Indianapolis

Photo from Flickr User _J_D_R_

Indianapolis Central Canal at Night. Photo from Flickr User _J_D_R_

Continuing the “About the Portfolio” series, today I’d like to talk about another of my projects from my time in Indianapolis. This report, “The Economics of Waterway Development in Indianapolis,” is available for download here on my portfolio page. The report was written in 2013 in conjunction with a great effort that is picking up steam in Indy, Reconnecting to Our Waterways (ROW). ROW and projects like it are proof that to catalyze economic or community development we don’t always have to create something new; we simply need to start appreciating the assets we already have. Continue reading