How to the ideas in Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner's book Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything relate to issues in environmental sciences in terms of...

How to the ideas in Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner's book Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything relate to issues in environmental sciences in terms of social behaviors, government, or political corruption? How does the idea of energy currency also relate to the ideas in the book and issues in environmental sciences?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In order to complete your assignment, one thing you must first understand is exactly how the Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner's book Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything can be related to environmental science. Environmental science is an interesting study in that it can actually be quite diverse. In its essence, environmental science is the study of the ways in which "living and non-living components" interact with each other in one environment ("What is Environmental Science?"). Environmental science also specifically wants to see how mankind influences both the "living and non-living components" within an environment. Since environmental science studies interactions, its research actually depends on a diverse number of fields of study, including biology, ecology, geology, chemistry, physics, thermodynamics, and bio-medics, among others ("What is Environmental Science?"). The ways in which mankind impacts its environment also has sociopolitical consequences; therefore, the fields of economics, sociology, and political science are also essential for conducting research in environmental science, which brings us to how the book Freakonomics can be seen as relevant to the field of environmental science ("What is Environmental Science?"). In their book, authors Levitt and Dubner apply economic theories to examine social issues to show that such issues actually have things in common. Hence, those studying environmental science could easily pick any social issue discussed in the book to show how human interaction with the environment within that issue has influenced the environment.

Another concept in your question you must understand to be able to complete your assignment is "energy currency." Energy currency is a new economical concept in which we eliminate fiat currency, meaning currency not backed by anything other than the government's word, and back currency with something that is abundant, like a unit of energy called a calorie or an erg ("The Evolutionary Advantages of an ... Energy-Backed Currency"). Since energy "cannot be created or destroyed" but only "transformed and transferred," energy can be a practical measure with which to back currency ("The Evolutionary Advantages"). What's more, energy is valuable, and the more valuable we consider energy to be, the more humanity feels inclined to create new technology that will generate more energy through greener, less expensive means. The less energy costs and the more we have of it, the richer humanity becomes ("The Evolutionary Advantages"). As "energy becomes more abundant, countries could print more money without diluting its value" ("The Evolutionary Advantages"). Hence, the concept of energy currency is as much a sociopolitical issue as it is an environmental issue, making it also a very fitting concern for environmental science.

The book Freakonomics of course covers many social issues, and each of those issues can be interpreted as having environmental influence. Since social issues also tie in with the economy, social issues can also be connected with the concept of energy currency. One social issue we may look at is the fact that, in Chapter 4: Where Have all the Criminals Gone?, Levitt and Dubner connect the decline in crime rates with the legalization of abortion. The authors point out that the 1980s was a time period of extreme crime rates, especially due to drug trafficking of "cheap" drugs like crack cocaine. However, crime rates decreased in the 1990s. The authors further indicate that criminologists and public officials associated the decrease in crime rates with increases in police forces, new policing strategies, gun-control laws, and several other factors. However, Levitt and Dubner argue that, while the increased numbers of police certainly seemed to have helped reduce the crime rates, it should be noted that crime rates fell even in places where no changes to police forces and procedures could be made (eNotes, "Freakonomics: Summary"). So, what can account for the decrease in crime rates? Levitt and Dubner assert their provocative claim that the legalization of abortion is the main contributing factor. The authors point out that after the decision of Roe vs. Wade was enacted in 1973, "about 750,000 women" had abortions in the U.S. and the number increased to 1.6 million in 1980. Levitt and Dubner further point out that the children born around the same time that the Roe vs. Wade decision was made were growing into their teen years by the 1990s. The teen years are the years in which young men begin to tend towards their lives of crime. But the 1990s were also the same period in which crime rates dropped. The authors conclude that "legalized abortion led to less unwantedness; unwantedness leads to high crime; legalized abortion, therefore, led to less crime" (p. 140). As we can see, the legalization of abortion, the Supreme Court case Roe vs. Wade, and crime rates are all sociopolitical issues. What's more, if legalization of abortion leads to reduced crime rates and the unavailability of legal abortions leads to higher crime rates, then we can also see how mankind's interaction with both each other in terms of sexuality and with non-living entities, such as laws, can directly influence our environment, making this sociopolitical issue a perfect topic to study under environmental science. More specifically, mankind's creation of a non-living law to legalize abortion directly impacted the environment by reducing crime rates, while the non-living procedure of preventing abortions impacted the environment by leading to increased crime rates.

How does the reduction of crime rates through legalized abortion relate to energy currency? Increased crime rates of course leads to economic instability because more money must be spent to control, capture, and imprison criminals. Spending more money on the above leads to a drain on resources. It can also be said that draining resources also leads to a drain on energy. Therefore, when crime rates are higher, less energy is available to back currency, and the opposite is true when crime rates are reduced.