Wikipedia has worked to create policies and guidelines to “further our goal of creating a free, reliable encyclopedia.”  While many of the entries seem to meet that goal providing high quality and extensive information about a variety of topics, the entry on “Externality,” needs additional improvement to more fully describe the topic.

For over 20 years I’ve worked as an activist and advocate to clean up pollution sources to protect public health and the environment. The concept of pollution as an externality has been core to conversations in realms of legislation, regulation as well as incentive programs. Given that background, I found that the Wikipedia Externality page had good basic information, but the greatest omission was that overall it seemed incomplete and not up-to-date with current considerations.

In order to be more comprehensive and neutral, I believe that the description should go beyond solely the classical economic description of pollution externalities to also include the growing support for a New Economy and possible changes in the system that could describe pollution costs as included in the economic calculation, e.g.: moving pollution from external to being more integrated. One interesting approach is a proposal to update the US national GDP to add new indicators that would, “paint a fuller picture of how the country is faring.”  Vermont and Maryland have already adopted the Genuine Progress Indicator. In this, “Environmental indicators include the cost of water pollution, air pollution, climate change, wetlands depletion, forest cover change, and non-renewable energy resources.”  This balanced perspective of including internalizing externalities should especially be added to the Lead, Possible Solutions section and External Links. An additional section below the Supply and Demand Diagram section should be considered to point out that in recent years this traditional economic view has been increasingly questioned with growing support for the behavioral economists point of view.

Along the same lines, the sources could be improved. A significant number of the sources are from the 1990’s or earlier, and do not support an up-to-date view on the evolving topic, which has gained interest since the financial challenges of the 2007-2009 recession raised more questions about classical economic assumptions. Additional sources such as those linked above should be consulted, as well as publications on the New Economy Coalition site.  Additional sources should be researched to ensure quality, published, recent sources are cited.

The formatting follows the Wikipedia Manual of Style, but I believe the flow of the content and the readability could be improved. Even the Lead does not explain the topic clearly enough so that a first time reader can understand the important take-aways.

Additional images showing the result of externalities could help describe the topic.  For instance, a child using an asthma inhaler to show the health impacts related to the negative impact air pollution.  A photo of a bee pollinating a crop could be placed in the positive externalities section.

Clearly, the Externality page could use some improvement. While I am new to engaging as a contributor to Wikipedia, I am excited about my new account and User page, and look forward to improving the information in topic areas where I have something useful to add.

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