Sustainable Development by Pinninti Krishna Rao is an introductory textbook suitable for roughly second-year undergraduate students. It provides a broad overview of economic and policy issues relevant to sustainable development.
Because it uses relatively little mathematics, it is appropriate for environmental courses in fields outside economics as well, such as political science, geography and law. As an introductory textbook, it at times lacks analytical depth. However, it covers all the major topics of sustainable development in a rather comprehensive way, including a chapter on poverty and the environment.
One of its strengths is due to the author's extensive experience as leader of and principal investigator for a number of projects funded by the United Nations Development Programme, the International Labour Organisation and Unicef.
Rao's book also benefits from a glossary and, more important, from an appendix of relevant website addresses, a feature that should become standard in modern textbooks.
Natural Resource and Environmental Economics by Roger Perman, Yue Ma, James McGilvray and (a new author for the second edition) Michael Common is a more advanced textbook suitable for third-year undergraduate or postgraduate courses in the field of economics only. It provides a very comprehensive treatment of all the major topics of natural-resource and environmental economics.
However, future editions would benefit from a grouping of topics into broader issue areas. It is well written throughout and has the potential to become a standard-setting textbook in its field. More advanced mathematical treatment is regularly confined to appendices, which makes the chapters themselves more accessible. Many minor mistakes from the first edition have been corrected and more emphasis is put on the topic of sustainability.
The authors were well advised to revise the chapter on international environmental problems and to put more emphasis on the coordinating problem that sovereign countries face in a world without central government. This textbook also has a chapter on sources of environmental information on the internet, albeit much less comprehensive than in Rao's textbook.
Growth and Development by A. P. Thirlwall is different from the other two textbooks in that its major focus is not on the environment, even though one of its 17 chapters is on development and the environment. It is an introductory textbook of development economics suitable for second and third-year undergraduate students in the fields of economics and development studies. It covers all the major areas at issue such as factors of and obstacles to development, finance for development, links between trade and development, as well as techniques for the appraisal of development projects.
Throughout, use is made of mathematics at an intermediate level. The sixth edition, five years after publication of the fifth edition, has not brought many changes to the contents, but the statistical data, which is used extensively throughout, has been updated.
All three textbooks have an extensive index and a list of references, which is chapter specific in the case of Rao's and Thirlwall's textbooks. They all contain a number of review exercises at the end of each chapter. These are essay-type questions in the case of Rao's and Thirlwall's textbooks, so no model answers are provided.
Perman et al 's review exercises consist of essay-type discussion questions and problem sets. In principle, suggested answers are made available to teachers via the web pages accompanying the textbook - again, a feature that should become standard for textbooks that include problem sets. However, the relevant sites are still under construction and have been so for months, something that Perman and his coauthors need to tackle, even if rudimentary answers are available on direct request from the authors.
Eric Neumayer is lecturer in environment and development, London School of Economics.
Growth and Development. Sixth Edition
Author - A. P. Thirlwall
ISBN - 0 333 74678 3 and 74679 1
Publisher - Macmillan
Price - £62.50 and £21.99
Pages - 521