env eco

Green Blog: Global Edition

by Elaine Schwartz    •    Feb 6, 2013    •    TIME TO READ: 1 minute

By Amy Tourgee, guest blogger, Kent Place School alumna and Environmental Studies undergraduate at Princeton University

Hello to all from Kenya! For those of you who didn’t catch the postscript of my last blog, I am studying abroad here on a joint Princeton-Columbia program on tropical agriculture and sustainability.  13 students, 4 classes, 1 research center.  It’s kind of like a super academic version of MTV’s Real World.

I’ve only been here for a few days, but it’s already shaping up to be an amazing adventure.  It’s a beautiful 80-90 degrees every day with no humidity.  On the drive to the reserve, we were within a few arms lengths of giraffes.  And I’m totally rocking the zip off pants, binoculars and safari hat a la Nigel Thornberry (we do a lot of fieldwork).

Backing up a bit though, one of the first obstacles we faced in Nairobi was the horrendous traffic. Truly, truly horrendous.  I will never complain about Manhattan street congestion ever again.  As we sat in the car, unmoving, I thought about roads as a private or public good.

Economic Lesson

In fact, roads are a mixed good – that is, they have elements of both pure private and public goods.  On one hand, roads are similar to public goods in the sense that they are non-excludable.  You cannot prevent another person from using the good – everyone can use roads, just like everyone can use a public park.

However, roads are like private goods because they are a rival good, meaning that one person’s consumption affects other people’s consumption of the good.  In the case of a road, as more people drive on the road, traffic emerges, and the experience of other cars is changed from quick, leisurely drive down the highway to a frustrating, slow crawl.

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