Jon Lovett

Jon Lovett

Jon Lovett is Chair in Global Challenges in the School of Geography at the University of Leeds and works on institutional economics.

Location United Kingdom


  • I'm very pleased you've enjoyed it. I've just posted the end of week reflection in Step 2.12 if you're interested to come back and have a look. I'm running a bit late this week because I've got a lot of classroom teaching to do! :)

  • @CarolynWarburton Many thanks, that's an interesting case. But have a look at the Heathrow noise case: Hatton and others v United Kingdom, 8 July 2003 (ECHR). 'Modern life is beset with inconveniences'.

  • Many thanks for these interesting points and you are quite right to raise them. I'm a bit behind on answering comments this week because I have a lot of other teaching to do, but you might be interested in the end of week 'reflection' that Laura has just posted in Step 2.12 of the course on 'Hierarchy of Property Rights' that follows this one on 'Rights and...

  • You've raised some very interesting ideas. Is it really possible to value ecosystem services in money when they provide so much more to human welfare that cannot be quantified.

  • What you say is true. However, the UK government is planning to implement a 'public money for public goods' scheme that includes payments for ecosystem services. This link contains some information and reports:

  • @CarolynWarburton the paper presents evidence from a series of legal cases about the extent of evidence needed to demonstrate harm, and concludes that causal links need to be clear and strong. This is hard to do with something as diffuse and pervasive in the environment as low level radiation.

  • @MaryIsabelMcMullen I learnt a lot from finding out about the distinction between the 'giving spirit' and 'controlling ancestor'. It shifted my perception of the world. I hope you enjoy the other courses.

  • @LindaNicklin That's a good point, but I think there is also a fundamental difference in how nature is perceived. As Paul noted, the two are not mutually exclusive. My own thoughts are that we are culturally conditioned in economic reciprocity and the property rights that entails, and have to make a mental adjustment to appreciate the 'giving spirit'.

  • Thank you! I'm pleased you enjoyed the course, and please do share it with your team. It's free of charge :)

  • Thank you for those very good points. They are also all important when considering implementing land use changes that might lead in the future to ecological restoration. The costs of restoration are rarely included in initial planning - except in some cases such as mining.

    Here's an interesting article about mining in Madagascar and biodiversity...

  • @CarolynWarburton Yes you are right, taking Russia to court over the Chernobyl disaster would be impossible - especially now! But also I'm not convinced it would be possible to prove harm. In legal cases there has to be a direct cause and effect link.

    If you can access it, this is an interesting article:

    Is the Precautionary Principle...

  • @MaryIsabelMcMullen Many thanks and I pleased you're enjoying the course. There are five two-week courses in the series in case you haven't seen the others.

    Links to the other courses can be found here:

  • You are right, the idea of imperialism comes first. This can be described in an institutional economics frame.

    Imperialism is an informal institution that represents what Douglass North would call a tribal culture (see the first course in the Environmental Challenges series). Organisations form under the institution to reflect and implement the social norms...

  • Just a quick note to say that I'm just waiting for Laura to post the reflection when she's ready :)

  • @bedefox Military activities appear to operate by a different set of basic principles. For example, the basic principle of murder being against the law is put to one side in military operations. Similarly matters of property rights, precaution etc are not the same as in peace time. It's an interesting question.

  • Welcome to the course I hope you find it interesting.

  • There are is a lot of good work going on in many parts of the world. We tend to hear mostly about disasters, but as you say, NGOs, communities and non-profits are stepping up.

  • What are your thoughts on the ‘giving’ perception of nature practised by hunter-gatherer societies and the ‘controlling’ ancestor nature of agriculturalists? The later is the basis for economic reciprocity and so the underpinning of modern economic activity, where-as the former is the essence of our relationship with the natural world.

  • That is very interesting. Most people have a very limited understanding of what 'property' is and the responsibilities and rights associated with it. I find the many nuances of property rights fascinating.

  • Welcome to the course. I'll be following the discussions in the forum over the next two weeks and joining in when I can. At the end of each week I'll write a reflection on a topic in the news that relates to the subjects we're covering in the course. I look forward to reading your comments!

    This course is one of five two-week courses in the Environmental...

  • @bedefox Yes, that is why the principles of justice - equality and equity - are important, as we discussed in the first course in this series. :)

  • That's a good summary - I like the quotation and am a firm believer in the need to be optimistic and work together for positive change and a sustainable future. Many people and organisations are doing this. Here's one that focuses on the business case for regenerative agriculture for example:

  • I am glad you enjoyed the course. The next course in the series will be on property rights. You can find links to all the courses here:

  • I'm glad you enjoyed it. Writing a good press release is a useful skill - not only for writing press releases but also for organising information for communication generally.

    Many environmental organisations have a section on their website for press releases. Here's the site for Greenpeace:


  • The question of whether or not nuclear power plants have adverse health effects is hotly debated. You need to support your conclusions on risk by reference to studies.

    It is very difficult to scientifically prove that such effects exist. For example, a meta-analysis published in 2013 concludes:

    "Our study does not support an association between living...

  • Those are very good points. There is a tension between the rights of individuals and the good of society as a whole. We explored this in the first course in this series when we looked at Rawls's Theory of Justice and his principles of equality and equity. It's hard, if not impossible, to reconcile. Even rights of individuals to life and liberty that are...

  • Jon Lovett made a comment

    Here's a reminder of some of the payments made that harm the environment:

    "The fossil fuel industry benefits from subsidies of $11m every minute, according to analysis by the International Monetary Fund.
    The IMF found the production and burning of coal, oil and gas was subsidised by $5.9tn in 2020, with not a single country pricing all its fuels...

  • Here's an interesting article about environmentally damaging subsidies:

    "The world is spending at least $1.8tn (£1.3tn) every year on subsidies driving the annihilation of wildlife and a rise in global heating, according to a new study, prompting warnings that humanity is financing its own extinction.
    From tax breaks for beef production in the Amazon to...

  • You make a very good point about diffuse sources of pollution and the difficulty that arise from that - can market-based mechanisms be used to reduce diffuse pollution sources? Or is regulation required and the subsequent high transaction costs absorbed by society?

  • That's a good and well thought out answer. In later courses in this series we'll be looking again at the Natural Capital approach. Incorporating ecosystem values into the economy through market-based mechanisms requires application of a set of assumptions (which we covered in the first course in this series), not least of which is clear ownership through...

  • Thinking of background radiation in Cornwall, have you heard of banana equivalent dose? Here's a song about it:

    If you search on the internet for banana equivalent dose you'll find all sorts of fascinating information about radiation.

  • Yes, the transaction costs would be huge. It would also be impossible to definitively prove harm caused by the radiation.

  • You are right - the conditions for efficient markets need to be met before Coasian Bargaining can really be effective. It is hard, if not impossible, to meet these conditions for environmental goods and services.

    However, most markets are far from being optimal but they are commonly used, and offer opportunities for enrichment by those who can control the...

  • Here's a similar expression of values about trophy hunting in Africa:

  • Laws are constantly being renegotiated by society, but many laws stay in place for a long time. Sometimes this can be regarded as morally right, for example a long standing law might promote equality and equity. Other laws can perpetuate structural inequalities - for example those of land ownership transmitted through generations, sometimes for thousands of...

  • Yes, they are hard to balance. Some of the values are 'incomparable'. For example one person's value of the intrinsic worth of an elephant is not comparable with someone else's value of the price placed on an elephant's tusks as a trophy.

  • That's an interesting question. Expressing values in monetary terms enables what is called 'comparability'. In fact it is strong comparability and even also the values to be added together and subtracted. However, as you mention, a lot of other values are lost in the process of converting something like care-giving to money. It is often said of the financial...

  • I hope you find the course interesting Arief.

  • That type of value is called 'intrinsic value'. But many other types of values are also given to nature - both 'use' and 'non-use' values.

  • Welcome Saira, I hope you are enjoying the course.

  • Welcome Rafael, I hope you are enjoying the course.

  • I'm very pleased that you've enjoyed it. It is a pleasure to host you on the course.

  • You are very welcome, I'm glad that you've enjoyed the course. There are a total of five courses in the Environmental Challenges series. The next one is on 'Rights and Values'.

    I've also recently written a course on Bioenergy together with some of my project...

  • Good observation, it is indeed idealistic. But it is commonly used as an environmental policy instrument. For example, carbon emissions trading, carbon offsetting, biodiversity banking, payments for ecosystem services, 'public money for public goods etc. As you say, it is not so simple in the real world.

  • Thank you :)

  • Here's another article that refers to Robert Kennedy's speech cited in the reflection:

    "... GDP has never been and can’t be decoupled from material footprint, including energy. This means we cannot roll out renewable energy fast enough to meet the objectives of the Paris Agreement – to keep warming below 2°C – if we continue growing our economy. Three...

  • Jon Lovett made a comment

    One way of reducing transaction costs is to increase trust. Higher levels of trust reduce the costs of finding information, bargaining and enforcement of sanctions.

    If transaction costs become too high, then institutions fail, so it's important for trust to be a major part of any institutional matrix.

    Here's an article from last year about loss of trust...

  • Welcome to the course. I'll be following the discussions in the forum over the next two weeks and joining in when I can. Next week I'll put a summary of my answers in the discussion forum in the question and answer session, as well as answering your own questions. At the end of each week I'll write a reflection on a topic in the news that relates to the...

  • The end of week reflection is coming soon! It's written and we just need to wait for Laura to edit and post it :)

  • Thank you! I'm pleased that you are enjoying the course.

  • Welcome to the course, I hope you find it interesting and useful.

  • @ChrisBicknell There is no reason why market economics can not also be fair and just if there is equality of opportunity and support for the least advantaged. Bentham put forward his utilitarian principles of greatest happiness to the greatest number as a way of countering hegemonic control by an elite. But Rawls's approach is centred on the individual,...

  • My own journey to starting to understand institutional economics was through reading the Nobel Prize speech of Douglass North:

    I reread it often as it has so many different facets to it.

    The way that I visualise institutions is that they are the 'umbrella' under which...

  • I think you're right. There is nothing wrong with market economics in the sense that Adam Smith writes about. The problem starts when the institutional matrix is captured by elites and 'market economics' becomes institutionalised monopolies. This has happened repeatedly through history and one of the roles of government is to prevent and undo it when it...

  • Welcome to the course, I hope you find it interesting and useful :)

  • Yes, I think that is a good summary. Economics can be included in social and political solutions; and human impacts on the environment are also social and political.

  • Welcome to the course :)

  • Welcome to the course :)

  • Welcome to the course :)

  • That's an interesting idea. Perhaps something like the consumer report 'Which', or the used car selling website 'Autotrader'. Both of these reduce the transaction costs of finding and comparing information, and so enable the market to work more efficiently.

  • That's the right thing to do for improving 'economic efficiency' and the 'hidden hand' of the market, but it increases transaction costs because of the time needed to research, compare prices and transact the purchase.

  • Buying from smaller businesses is the way that Adam Smith envisaged markets working efficiently. Larger guilds and chains can impose prices by exerting monopolies. However, buying from smaller businesses increases transaction costs because more time is spent finding out about the products, comparing prices and perhaps also negotiating. The transaction costs...

  • That's a good example because the oil industry has a powerful political lobby and so can influence government decisions on subsidies.

    Here's an article about fossil fuel subsidies:

    "Last month, the International Monetary Fund calculated total fossil-fuel subsidies in 2020 at $5.9 trillion, or almost 7% of global gross domestic product (GDP), largely as...

  • Increasing population is an interesting question. Some people say that population growth needs to be stopped because too many people on the planet means that the world's population will outstrip the potential of agriculture to feed everyone. Other people say that the real problem is inequality, with a small percentage of the global population consuming most of...

  • That looks like an interesting article. Here's another more recent article from the Guardian that presents a perception of Hindu nationalism in India:

    And here is another in 'Foreign Policy' from last year about what some commentators...

  • Both are good choices. Tolerance can be problematic though as it is possible to be tolerant of bad behaviour so it is better to have a firm stance on the principles of justice with which to rebuff bad behaviour rather than be tolerant of it. :)

  • Good choices. Respect for nature is a particularly interesting one.

    In one of the later courses in this series we'll be looking at anthropocentric and ecocentric perspectives. For example, respect for nature could be 'Kantian', which says that the way we treat animals reflects the way we treat people; or it might recognise the intrinsic rights of animals,...

  • Yes, but his work is not easy to read and so is not well known outside academic circles. However, it is very influential as many senior decision makers have read it. For example, former President Obama is a Rawlsian:

  • @JohnsonAgama Welcome to the course

  • @JamesWalker have you had a look on the Drax website to see if the answers to your questions are there?

  • Welcome to the course :)

  • Welcome to the course. I'll be following the discussions in the forum over the next two weeks and joining in when I can. Next week I'll put a summary of my answers in the discussion forum in the question and answer session, as well as answering your own questions. At the end of each week I'll write a reflection on a topic in the news that relates to the...

  • Welcome to the course!

  • Renewable energy is really in the news these days. It's not about bioenergy, but here's an interesting article about consumer prices:

    "Based on the official figures from the last quarter, the UK’s pipeline of renewable energy projects, which are expected to be under construction until 2023, could have saved households £3.9bn if they were operating this...

  • Very good points. Price is an interesting question in the energy sector as there are large subsidies involved in generation (and in fossil fuels in exploration and extraction, and nuclear power in construction etc) and large taxes (for example on liquid transport fuels, and the taxes on gas and electricity consumption are different), so the price people pay is...

  • The videos are produced by our partners in Uganda and Indonesia. Their videos include background music as that is what is preferred in their countries. So that is why it's there. :)

  • @SueScott An integrated approach that includes energy should be reducing you bills, not increasing them :). Also, biogas digestate is a high quality fertiliser and a design that includes using sewage for energy might be able to prevent raw sewage from being sluiced into rivers during storms. Sewage processing using a rather old process that wasn't designed to...