The problems of environmental degradation are by no means new in Nigeria. What is new and different is the amount of attention the community is now prepared to give to environmental problems. Perhaps much of this increase can be attributed to rising income levels which have freed people from the more urgent concerns about food, clothing and shelter, allowing them to concentrate on the next priority level of needs – the quality of the environment and their lives.
Economic thought on these issues preceded outburst of public concern with the subject by nearly half a century.
After the first decade of the 20th century, a rioted British Economist, A.C Pigou, wrote a ground breaking book, “The Economics of Welfare”. The book highlighted several issues concerning environmental problems and gave an approach to environmental policy. It was after this development, that economists started devoting chapters in their books to environmental economics. Examples are Baumol and Blinder (1979), who used Pigou’s analysis to build their chapter 34, Reynolds, L. G (1973) who did the same and a host of other economists too many to be mentioned.
Also, after the 1970s the linkage between environmental problems and development problems began to affect development researches and debates.
After the publication of the limits of growth in 1972, environmental issues increasingly became a significant part of international development agenda. The United Nations provided leadership through Conferences (Stockman Conference, the Earth Summit in Rio-de-Janerio, Brazil, etc.) New Organisations (United Nations Environmental Programme – UNEP) and institutions (Kyoto protocols), International Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOS), World Conservation Union, World Life Fund for Nature and Research Institutes, like the International Institute for Environment and Development actively promoted the mainstreaming of environment in international development discourse, policy and multilateral trade negotiations.
The issue of scarcity and depletion of natural resources (oil, gas, fish, water, land, forest, etc.), pollution of air and water, have remained very topical issues in Nigeria and across the globe; hence the need to include the chapter on Environmental Economics at this level of our school system to serve as a springboard for greater consciousness on environmental issues.
Here, notes that the environmental problems for the economy arise when one type of economic activity unintentionally has damaging or beneficial effects upon persons not directly involved in the activity -upon persons external to that activity.
These incidental effects, called externalities, play a crucial role in problems that beset our environment. It also considers agencies that contribute to environmental damage and the means of controlling them.