David’s wife, Leorah Abouav-Zilberman is here today to help us celebrate. Please stand to be recognized, Leorah, and thanked for your role in David’s achievements.
Berkeley has been David’s professional home since he began graduate school. His early work dealt with water quality issues, inspired by the animal agricultural waste management problem in California. He identified the importance of heterogeneity among producers in addressing externality problems, and used these differences to explain the existence various types of standards on political economic grounds. He also showed the importance of credit considerations in solutions to an externality problem—when the adoption of new technology is crucial, but limited access-to-credit prevents adoption.
David was also one of the pioneers of work on spatial externalities, showing that the standard results of urban economics and resource allocation over space may change drastically when externalities are taken into account. He and his collaborators derived efficient incentives and regulations that vary across locations for management of animal waste, drainage, water quality, land use, and other problems. The methodology for addressing heterogeneity of both benefits and costs was crucial in David's pioneering work on the purchase of environmental amenities. This work has been applied to the design of the conservation reserve program and was used in the US Senate debate on the CRP.
David reinvented the literature on the economics of pest management. He introduced the notion of damage control functions that account for the productivity of pesticides and explained paradoxical results in existing empirical studies. His insights also advanced the way we think about the economic impacts of biotechnology.
His work on pesticide cancellations has helped to change the way policy analysis is done: impact assessment has to incorporate existing regulations in order to obtain accurate outcomes. His paper in Science, with its general economic perspective on pesticide policy, made the case for use of taxation and discriminatory policies, where pesticides are allowed in cases of highest benefit-cost ratio and are restricted otherwise.
David’s work on the adoption of irrigation technologies was the key insight that resulted in California drainage strategies that favored incentives rather than large water projects. David conducted a large-scale study of the economics of drought in California showing that in most cases, the main water issue is not scarcity, but bad incentives. David’s work demonstrated that the introduction of markets and trading in water rights drastically reduced the cost of moving water to environmental purposes. This work was crucial in establishing water quality standards in the Bay and Delta, and assessing endangered species regulations in California.
David has served on, and chaired, both the AERE Workshop committee and the committee to select the Publication of Enduring Quality. He has also served on JEEM’s editorial council. He has been department chair for Berkeley’s prestigious Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics and is currently the director of the Giannini Foundation. David has mentored a generation of well-known environmental economists and made important policy contributions to various agencies and organizations—from the US EPA and USDA to the OECD.
For his fundamental work on the regulation of pesticides, on water quality and allocation problems, and on technological innovation and adoption; for his longstanding contributions to Berkeley’s exemplary program; for the many excellent students he has helped prepare to join our profession; for his contributions to alleviating some of California’s biggest environmental and natural resource problems, and for his generous service to AERE, we induct David Zilberman as a 2007 Fellow of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists. Congratulations David!