[Coral-List] Value of Hawaiian Reefs - the fundamental problem?

Ulf Erlingsson ceo at lindorm.com
Tue Nov 22 13:50:59 EST 2011

The tragic of the commons is a difficult nut to crack. I've been playing with the idea of using the sustainability index as a scale, and TAX businesses (and perhaps individuals) in proportion to their un-sustainability rather than taxing work as today. Although I haven't come further than to think that maybe it could be done...

Ulf Erlingsson

On 2011-11-22, at 09:41, Bill Allison wrote:

> Why purchase flat screen TVs instead of investing in ecosystem conservation?
> Although one valuation metric may lend itself better to a conservation
> ethic than does another the valuation metric does not seem to be the main
> problem. Irregardless of the metric used, the fundamental problem seems to
> be that on the one hand, any action to conserve resources has a discrete
> cost to individual entities (people, institutions, nations etc), while on
> the other hand, the benefits of such action are diffused across the
> population. The benefits to individuals are small compared to the cost to
> the individual even though the potential benefits to the population may be
> enormous. “Potential” and “may be” because those benefits will be realized
> only to the extent that everybody participates. In an unregulated system
> (e.g., an open access fishery) or one with regulations serving primarily
> vested or political interests or both, the potential benefits are heavily
> discounted because the likelihood of a high participation rate is deemed
> low. Such a ill-managed system can and has collapsed (e.g., the Canadian
> East Coast Cod fishery). If this argument is accepted, and if it is also
> accepted that it is the responsibility of government to conserve and
> improve the common good, then the problem is a gross and systemic
> governance failure (seen much of that recently?)
> Note: This is of course just one of several useful ways of framing the
> dynamic underlying the “Tragedy of the Commons” brought to our attention in
> 1968 by Garrett Hardin (Science.1968.162.3859.1243), although he was not
> the first to discuss it.
> On Tue, Nov 22, 2011 at 4:54 AM, Juergen Herler <juergen.herler at univie.ac.at
>> wrote:
>> Dear listers, dear Peter!
>> I doubt that we can get around talking about values in general if we want
>> to establish a useful valuation system. And why considering the monetary
>> value system as the most appropriate one? Having only 2 to 3% of the cash
>> sum being covered by real values, I would consider this unsustainable
>> system - in which values are just “printed on demand” - as inappropriate
>> for establishing a sustainable valuation for ecosystems. However it may be
>> a good start, before it is too late for everything, but it must not be the
>> final aim. I think Ulf Erlingsson’s suggestion is a much better approach.
>> And why consider a valuation useful, when it asks for how much money
>> people would spend on something when people know they actually don’t have
>> to give it away but still can buy the next-generation flat-screen with it?
>> Would be more interesting to look at the result when people have to
>> exchange their values, which seems not only feasible but even necessary in
>> the future, let’s say live without a car, eat much less meat and certain
>> sea food and try to make a living at 30% of the current energy consumption
>> level but retain primary forests, coral reefs, etc. and have their
>> services available for longer than a few more decades. I wonder whether
>> somebody would dare to make such a survey and take the risk of ending up
>> in deep frustration. The best thing that may turn out is that people just
>> do not know about their dependence on ecosystem services, the worst thing
>> would be that they know about it, but do not value it.
>> But maybe I am just one of these fools who still have a too romantic view
>> of nature (and still have troubles to become familiar with the idea of
>> diving above and doing research in algal mats instead of coral reefs).
>> However, it is for sure less damaging than a too economic view of it. But
>> it is definitely correct that we, since we are all in the same boat,
>> should spend less energy for endless discussions and for blaiming people
>> for putting “useless” actions. We need this energy not only for uniting
>> disciplines and developing a reasonable philosophy and methodology for
>> valuation (which is maybe out there, but not yet applied) but especially
>> for changing our behavior to match it with our knowlegde. So the
>> “better-educated” people will be challenged most and are supposed to be
>> the first, and others will (probably) follow!?
>> Best wishes
>> Juergen
>>> ----- Original Message -----
>>> From: Peter Edwards [mailto:horlicks_1989 at yahoo.com]
>>> Sent: Friday, November 18, 2011 03:43 PM
>>> To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
>>> Subject: [Coral-List] Value of Hawaiian Reefs - why cant we all just
>>> get   along? :-)
>>> Hello Coral-Listers,
>>> I will try not to be-labor the point, and I am pretty sure that the
>>> "pure" coral reef biologists, oceanographers, et al will soon chime in
>>> to let us know this topic is not "science-y" enough.? And that all this
>>> nonsense about people's preferences, values etc has little or nothing to
>>> do with coral reefs (chuckle).
>>> But to I'd like to refer to Gene's last email and others of a similar
>>> "strain"....
>>> There will always be debate among and within disciplines.? This should be
>>> encouraged as different points of view help to move science and human
>>> knowledge forward.? However I believe that we will continue to witness
>>> the decline of precious and "invaluable" resources such as coral reefs,
>>> mangrove forests, sea
>>> grass beds etc if we continue to remain entrenched in our camps.?
>>> Dismissive comments and generalizations about a discipline that people
>>> may have little understanding about is not helpful.? If we (natural and
>>> social) scientists learned to "speak" to each other perhaps we would be
>>> more successful at finding solutions to conservation.? Again I am
>>> speaking as an individual who has come from a foundation of biology,
>>> coral reef ecology who recognized the need for integrating social
>>> sciences including neo-classical micro economic theory as part of my
>>> tool-kit.? This has helped me better understand issues of efficient
>>> allocation of resources and open my eyes to possible solutions for
>>> reducing pollution and environmental degradation.?
>>> I get the strong sense from some of the comments that there is the
>>> suspicion that by conducting these types of studies the results will be
>>> "hijacked" by business interests who want to privatize, sell off, steal
>>> these resources. Well I am sorry to say...."News
>>> Flash...this just in"...it is already happening.? What this discipline
>>> and these approaches try to do is find solutions to ensure that these
>>> resources get the respect they deserve and are not completely
>>> obliterated from the planet. Message:? WE ARE ON THE SAME TEAM!!!
>>> I urge some of you with deeply ingrained philosophical biases to try to
>>> be a little more open minded and read a little wider.? Instead of just
>>> cherry picking articles against this discipline, look for some balanced
>>> articles.? There are indeed pros and cons to these approaches.? I would
>>> hate to think that scientists such as ourselves are just as entrenched
>>> as the political and religious extremists you know that anti-anything-we
>>> don't understand-
>>> folks that seem to dominate the news and political discourse these days..
>>> Nuff Said
>>> Peter Edwards
>>> The views and comments expressed here do not reflect the official
>> position
>>> of any organization I may be employed to or affiliated with
>> er
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> not inside like a kernel but outside, enveloping the talk which brought it
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> (Conrad)
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