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Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Abuse of Ecosystem Threatens Earth

Sci-Tech Today:

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA) predicts an increased risk of abrupt collapses in nature that could spur disease, deforestation or "dead zones" in the seas. Sudden changes in water quality, the collapse of fisheries and shifts in regional climate are other likely features of our over-use of resources, it warns.
It doesn't take a genius to realize that use of resources at unsustainable rates can't last forever.
"At the heart of this assessment is a stark warning," said the 45-member board of the MEA. "Human activity is putting such strain on the natural functions of Earth that the ability of the planet's ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted."
So what is the solution? Strict conversion to an anti-capitalist platform advocated by many leftist environmentalists before its too late? Not so fast. Check out this TCS Article which talks about this report, and also the conclusions of how to solve the problems, which have been much less reported on.
Now that's what I call shocking and almost unbelievable, that 1,300 scientists from 95 countries, working under the auspices of the United Nations, seem to have drunk the free market Kool-Aid. The end result of this years-long investigation is that us free market tree hugger and greenie types are actually correct in our contention that it is not the presence of markets, or the failure of markets, that leads to the devastation, it is the absence of markets. Just as we have had to, in centuries gone by, work out a system of laws that allows markets to flourish, thereby leading to the most efficient usage of resources, so now the task is to do the same for those areas of life where there are no markets. In water, pollution, fishing quotas, tropical forestry, in, in fact, all those sectors where we face the Tragedy of the Commons.
I don't think that pure privatisation will solve all environmental issues, but it can solve a lot of them.


Blogger honestpartisan said...

I think this is an example of conclusion-first-facts-second reasoning. Just because there are some instances in which a market -based solution is environmental doesn't mean that will be the case all the time. The classic example of where the free market creates incentives to pollute is where a rational economic actor finds that the cost he or she bears as a result of the marginal pollution he or she releases downstream is outweighed by the cost of disposing of waste cheaply. Replicate this individual economic incentive across a free-market economy and you get a lot of pollution. That's why it's appropriate sometimes to have government regulation for purposes of stopping pollution.

3/30/2005 03:12:00 PM  
Blogger Dave Justus said...

I certainly agree with that Honest Partisan. Neighborhood effects are a valid reason for government regulation.

I certainly would also agree that not all environmental effects are correctly valued, some being too high, others being too low.

The fact remains though that many of our most signifigant environmental issues are directly related to 'the tradgedy of the commons.' I don't think that all commons should necessarily be privatized, but I do think that their is a good case for privatising a many of them.

3/30/2005 03:32:00 PM  
Blogger The probligo said...

"The fact remains though that many of our most signifigant environmental issues are directly related to 'the tradgedy of the commons.' I don't think that all commons should necessarily be privatized, but I do think that their is a good case for privatising a many of them."

Dave, "commons" is obviously a shorthand for something - what I am not sure. Can you enlighten me please?

In the meantime;

remember that it is "private capital" that has destroyed some 35% of the Amazon rainforest in the past 25 years. For what? Marginal to non-productive farmland.

remember that it is "private capital" that has fished the Pacific tuna stock to something like 20% of the estimated sustainable population. The longterm chances of bluefin tuna species survival is slim to none.

remember that is is private capital that has removed 90% of the teak forest in Indonesia.

and so the list goes on.... and despite the "best efforts" (sarcasm should be obvious) of governments to stop the plunder of non-renewable resources.

4/01/2005 07:27:00 PM  
Blogger The probligo said...

Regretfully, the report is not JUST about pollution. That is certainly part.

It also has in-dpeth research into climate change, the survival of underground water supply, salination of soil from irrigation (ask the farmers on Colorado River irrigation schemes about that one), over-farming of marginal land, the use of resources (my last post)....

Concentrating on one issue - pollution - just because that is all that is publicised in your country is akin to talking about snowfall in the midst of an Indonesian tsunami.

4/01/2005 07:34:00 PM  
Blogger Dave Justus said...

Probligo: here is a quick overview of what the phrase 'tragedy of the commons' means.

The problems you described are all variations on this problem. I don't believe I said, or even implied that pollution was the only, or even the most signifigant environmental issue that we face.

4/04/2005 07:03:00 AM  

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