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Seeds of change in Business School economics

STANFORD -- What on earth were a couple of Earth First!- types doing speaking to a Stanford Business School class?

Economics Prof. Jeremy Bulow had good reason to invite three prominent environmental activists to address members of his 14-person seminar, "Strategic Thinking in Economics."

Two of the three were former members of the radical environmental group Earth First! Mike Roselle, one of EF!'s founders and an old hand at the sort of dirty tricks known as "ecotage", is currently with Greenpeace in Washington, D.C. Randy Hayes is founder and executive director of the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) in San Francisco, the group that likes to badger the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank for their development activities. The third was John Ruston, an economic analyst with the Environmental Defense Fund of New York and a member of EDF's McDonald's task force that negotiated the removal of the Big Mac from its polystyrene "clamshell" into more ecologically forgiving paper-based packaging.

"We emphasized the environment for several reasons," Bulow said of the winter-quarter class. "There was obvious student interest in the area. The Public Management Program chose the environment as the year's theme, and since we had no environmental courses in the Business School, I thought we would do well to move in that direction."

Bulow devoted one-fourth of the course to the environment -- a week of class time to general environmental issues and another three meetings to the three speakers. Two second-year students helped him develop the environmental component of the seminar and line up the three speakers. Peter Cooley, co-director of the 1990-91 Public Management Initiative, "Investing in the Environment," arranged visits from Hayes and Roselle. Another PMI participant, George Phipps, invited Ruston, whom Phipps had met when he worked as a summer intern for the Environmental Defense Fund.

"One reason we invited Randy Hayes and Mike Roselle was to expose the students to people who look at these issues in different ways," Bulow said. "Randy and Mike are radical, yes, but they are intelligent men who have thought about the environment. They just think about it in a different way, different from the way business people or economists do, different even from the way John Ruston of EDF does.

"Groups like RAN and Greenpeace are important in the environmental movement," Bulow said. "They've managed to get things done, and people who go into business are going to have to deal with them in a constructive way. I think that seeing representatives of these groups in a small, friendly setting is useful.

"You realize that, although you may be coming at an issue from an opposite direction and your language may be different, there's oftentimes more common ground than you think," he continued. "It's like Japanese and American business managers who have a different way of looking at things, yet find room to work together. Similarly, I think it's important for people to realize that they can talk to and work with people who may not take the standard business or economics paradigm as their starting point, but are still intelligent, thoughtful people who have worthwhile goals."

During the 1991-92 academic year, Bulow will teach an entire class in "Environmental Management and Policy Analysis." The course will cover the basics of environmental science and economics, study how companies are addressing environmental management, and explore selected public policy issues to identify effective policy and ways in which managers can affect or anticipate policy changes.

"I would especially like to find speakers from firms with outstanding environmental records to explain what they've done and how they've done it so that the students would have a kind of road map to take with them," Bulow said.

Bulow took his own environmental road map to the World Bank in Washington, D.C., during the spring quarter. There, he worked on the next issue of the organization's major annual publication, the World Development Report. The topic: "The Third World and the Environment." Publication date: April 1992.



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