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Hugh Gooding

Although significant strides and efforts are taken every year to counter threats to biodiversity, the article by Rands et al. states that we are not keeping up. I found it interesting that although the article called for more action, it was largely a critique of the ways in which we tackle problems to biodiversity. Much like many problems in environmental economics, there is not one right answer. This situation is no different. Our efforts to alleviate biodiversity threats are unorganized and often involve financial support without direction. Furthermore, these unorganized and financially driven efforts are burdened by knowledge gaps, new problems arising out of climate change and human resource demands, and extraordinary amounts of money continuing to be spent on environmental damage subsidies. Rands et al. says the greatest feat, however, may be achieving the three tiers together which they lay out to be the strategy for targeting global biodiversity loss. The second tier, the enabling stage, understandably, continues to be the most difficult to achieve. In a world where technology allows for globalization and rapid exchanges of information, I agree with the article's conclusion that it is our responsibility to "require conservationists to join with wider civil society groups pressing for governance reform and institutional change." As long as we fail to recognize the economic and welfare benefits stemming from healthy biodiversity, the tragedy of the commons will continue to plague any efforts.

William Bannister

The issue with protecting the Earth's biodiversity is clearly a hugely important and complicated one, and so it is no surprise that there has been limited progress with regards to its conservation. The article mentions the three tiers, and how "Existing efforts to address biodiversity loss have tended to jump from tier 1, the generation of knowledge, to tier 3, the design of appropriate instruments." The exclusion of tier 2 is critically important, and as the article also mentions, institutions within states are very difficult to change, with Rands et al. mentioning the presence of "patronage and corruption that govern the use and management of natural resources" [within the respective state's institutions]. Herein lies the biggest problem with incorporating tier 2 into the response to biodiversity loss - institutional policy towards biodiversity conservation stems from the political institutions of that same state. If a country is suffering from an immensely corrupt political state, or has a political environment that simply does not care for conservation, then enacting change within these institutions to conserve biodiversity is nigh on impossible. The article mentions all this in a similar manner. The question I want to ask is, is it viable to suggest that creating functioning markets from biodiversity will result in any significant change in conservation behavior? The reason I ask this is because I think of the example of the timber industry and deforestation, and I'm not 100% sure on how the market for timber works exactly, but a market clearly exists. However, the issue of deforestation and the subsequent habitat loss is still present. So why will anything different happen with conservation patterns if we create markets out of biodiversity? Or do I have the wrong end of the stick here?

Murray Manley

Despite the recent increase in membership of the World Wide Fund for Nature, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, and Nature Conservancy, biodiversity has continued to experience a decline. More people are on board with conservation, yet the situation fails to change. Why is that? First and foremost, 5 million supporters, while that may seem like a significant amount, is relatively small, especially considering the 7 billion people we live with in the world today. And even those who specify an interest in conservation are not always willing to pay; conservationist economists around the world are constantly battling with the problem of the free-rider and the difficulty of coming up with international solutions that people will abide by.

In 1992, The United Nations Convenient of Biological Diversity passed a resolution with 193 participating nations to promote biodiversity and safer development in the upcoming years. However, the world has seen little change in widespread eco-friendly building techniques, fishing techniques, etc. The question remains, how can economists and policy makers work together to make biodiversity into a market that people are willing to actually pay for? How can we make people understand in their day to day lives the issue of non-market valuation? And how would those who are already barely scraping by and significantly under the poverty line be able to afford food if the price of a single head of lettuce increased by 7 dollars to account for the damage done on biodiversity? Who would handle these funds and make sure they are appropriated accordingly? I’m not sure about how effective the UN’s promise to improve biodiversity has been or will be int he future; and I’m not sure that we will ever come up with a solution to solve the issue of decreasing biodiversity outside of the national level. We will still always be faced with the issue of negative externalities, and if it isn’t individuals acting in their own best interest and ignoring the societal cost associated with their actions, then it will be countries acting in their own best interest; perhaps we should just cut our losses and focus on it at an international level. The United States is a world leader; if we were to instigate a shift towards protecting biodiversity, could we perhaps appear as a model of good behavior and of a market that accounts for negative externalities and forces people to pay the full (true) cost for production? If we focus our research funds on placing a standardized cost system on food items, appliances, and goods that negatively impact the environment to pay for those costs, could we make a difference? Because it is extremely difficult to get 193 countries to agree, and even more difficult to get them to take action, perhaps our best bet is to form a small alliance of the UK, the US and become a role model for all other countries in that regard.

Elizabeth Wolf

The question of what is correct versus what is conducted is always worthy, and almost always occurs with disparity. Unfortunately the field of environmental economics falls prey to this phenomenon, especially due to the economic aspects of the environment as much of it is non-rival, non-excludable, and plagued with asymmetric pricing that results in market failures and loss of efficiency. This article catalogs the biodiversity conservation efforts, but one aspect of this process that became almost immediately obvious upon reading was the clear break and lack of communication and coordination between the civil organizations that are driving much of this conservation, and the people and governments of the countries where these protected areas are located. While there as certainly been a targeted increase in conservation areas, these zones were created as a result of the hard work and lobbying of special interest groups, such as the Nature Conservancy in the United States, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in the United Kingdom, and the Worldwide Wildlife Fund.
However, there seems to be little collaboration among these groups and in different sections of the world. This is not a failing of these private organizations – in reality they are almost single-handedly responsible for biodiversity preservation. Ostensibly, there are established organizations in place that facilitate this collaboration. And yet, bodies such as the UN and others are plagued with political corrupting and lobbyists that make effective change almost impossible.

This political reality manifests itself physically. As the article mentions, there are many protected areas, and growing, and yet there is no apparent (or effective) oversight by an organization or group with as an aerial perspective on the conversation efforts being made around the globe. While the article notes that there is inequality in education and access to scientific principles, this point furthers the support for a well-funded non-political international network for conservation.

The authors note the presence in interlinked challenges in conserving biodiversity, but the obvious response is the adoption of interlinked solutions. While the actual implementation of these solutions is very difficult, one could argue that mirroring the behavior of the problem would allow more effective solutions to be generated. The article suggests turning biodiversity into a public good, integration of biodiversity as a good into the market, and creating opportunities for policy decisions as ways to mitigate the destruction. While certainly noble, the likelihood that these actions are taken, and taken in full, is highly unlikely. As seen by the skewed pricing in America alone – specifically with regards to the agriculture industry – economic efficiency is not always the primary objective of policy. Therefore, as an initial means of effecting change, I argue that the creation of a network of either private or public organizations, not unlike those already in existence and cited at the beginning of the article, should be created so that the conservation of biodiversity is not as haphazard as it currently appears. Then, after a conglomeration (of sorts) has been established, economic policy that efficiently prices and categorizes the environment can be more accurately implemented. Though the article also argues that governmental and civil organizations must be organized, the distinction in timing is important. In order for actual economic change and challenge political pressures, these organizations must be consolidated or united to create a powerful lobby and compete with groups who are destroying biodiversity.

Benie Bolohan

The article highlighted some of the issues with current conservation approaches, touching on points that I thought were quite interesting. To me, the major underlying problem is the mismatch between benefactors and cost carriers. One line from the article reads “…need to address the opportunity costs of conservation among the rural poor.” People often ignore the costs of conservation—the marginal abatement cost as we have labeled it in our class—either not seeing any or recognizing that they do not share in that burden. If this is such an important issue—which I would argue it is—then freeriding is detrimental to making progress. Costs for conservation should be better distributed in order to reflect more heavily on those that benefit from it. Then, perhaps, the success of various conservation methods would not seem so mixed. The true benefactors of conservation are outsiders—people who do not depend on the biodiverse ecosystem to make a living. Conservation in the “rural poor” areas is difficult because it comes at a great opportunity cost for the locals. For this reason, the people asked to conserve the local ecosystems are faced with a major dichotomy: either reduce their private income, sometimes well beyond what it may be worth to them to conserve the ecosystem, or hope that others will while they continue to earn the money necessary to survive.

I think another major thing to keep in mind with this is the marginal value of money to individuals. For every additional dollar a person has, the marginal benefits of that dollar are likely to diminish. What I mean by this is simply that that law of diminishing returns also applies to money. Obviously, if you do not yet have enough money to support yourself (buy food, shelter and water), then the value of the dollar is still quite high for you. If you are debating whether or not to buy a multimillion dollar house in California, then a single dollar may not have much, if any, value to you. This income difference is again noted in conservation attempts because it further demonstrates how the burden of conserving the environment is incredibly difficult for locals. Their opportunity costs are substantial, and what may seem like a small fee to someone in the States may have much greater value to someone from the Caribbean.

Jonah M Mackay

Rands et al.'s paper on the state of conservation in 2010 does an excellent job of outlining the main issues affecting ecosystems and habitats on a broad scale, along with highlighting the main problems activists and those concerned about these issues will face if they hope to create sustainable change.

The article was fairly frustrating. Goals made for 2010 went largely unmet, and the international community is not focused on environmental issues. Despite the fact that countries across the globe agree that conservation is a necessary goal, other issues are made more important. Inequality acts as a driver of this, as countries that are very wealthy do not often see the effects of environmental degradation as much as their poorer neighbors. Nations better equipped to deal with the issues at hand often do not have to deal with the ramifications as quickly. Changes must be made so that nations prioritize conservation.

Paramount among necessary changes is getting corporations and governments educated, involved, and invested in the costs of environmental degradation. This may be hard to do, as taxpayers and investors do not want to pay more or cut their own profits and will fight against internalizing the externality. Thus, change has to come from the majority, most likely because of increased environmental education. A concerned populace will elect representatives who understand the issues of conservation. These electives will go on to pass rules and regulations that change the incentives for businesses such that they are forced to be more concerned about business practices that harm the natural world. Educated populations will also desire products and services that are accomplished in a sustainable way, putting additional pressure on corporations and businesses.

Unfortunately, education takes a great deal of time, and change in government takes much longer. This makes achieving short term goals very difficult. In the short term, scientists, naturalists, and conservationists should perfect solutions to problems, campaign too hold elected office, and advocate for increased education and investment in the environment.

Matthew Inglis

As some others have talked about, the tier system provides an outline of the three-pronged approach to environmental conservation. I found this to be pretty useful in bettering my understanding of the methods available. As the text points out, the second tier titled enabling involves institutions/governance and social/behavioral patterns. I see how this is the portion that is often overlooked in our current approach. It is necessary to include it, however, or else conservation attempts will never be very effective at the general level. Simply put, conservation attempts that lack an institutional input are not comprehensive.

I looked into the UN-REDD program discussed in the piece. It does indeed only focus on the first and third tiers. The about section of the program's web page (http://www.un-redd.org/aboutredd) confirms this. It only mentions statistics about deforestation and global greenhouse gas emissions and then the program's attempt at incentivizing reduction of emissions in developing countries. The goal of the program is great, but without the necessary governance portion of its approach to conservation promotion, UN-REDD will likely not accomplish it to the extent which is needed. If more complete conservation tactics are employed, we may see some considerable improvements. Until then, however, we should keep trying.

Jacob Strauss

Clearly the overall outlook established in this article is not optimistic, but one statement that particularly stuck out to me was when they stated "a recent survey found that
only two of the Financial Times Stock Exchange
(FTSE) 100 companies recognize biodiversity to
be of strategic importance to their business." Three years ago I was part of W&L's spring term abroad course to Denmark which focuses on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), and corporations typically include environmental protection as part of their CSR priorities. It appears then that biodiversity has received much less attention than other environmental protection goals, but perhaps a corporation is going to be more willing to limit pollution than limit its activities that cause habitat conversation.

Since this article is from 2010, I looked to see if there has been any recent change in focus in CSR to include biodiversity, but the only literature survey I could find on it was from the Netherlands (http://www.ccsenet.org/journal/index.php/jsd/article/download/28656/17470). It indicates that while biodiversity is starting to garner increased attention from corporations, it still remains "difficult" and "intangible" for corporations. Corporations can reach benchmarks for pollution reduction or for producing their products in an environmentally friendly way, and given that these things are easier to quantify and qualify, they can put third-party labels on their products that increase their appeal to consumers. There are also national awards for corporations that dramatically reduce pollution or limit waste. It would seem that given that biodiversity is more intangible there isn't an equivalent rating system or benchmark for biodiversity protection, which could make corporations less willing to focus on it. Even if they label their CSR efforts as entirely altruistic, they tend to respond to incentives for what they focus on. Unfortunately, US companies tend to lag far behind European companies in terms of environmental protection as a component of CSR, which means that US firms likely still consider biodiversity even less of a strategic priority than their counterparts in the Netherlands.

Maddi Boireau

I found the "Scaling up Success" section the most interesting in this paper. Although it may seem obvious, the authors state that, "protected areas can be an effective tool for conserving biodiversity." It goes on to state that only 12% of the earth's land surface is technically protected. This statistic is incredibly saddening. Initially, I want to say then lets just protect more of the earth's land. In class on Tuesday I kept thinking how we should just privatize everything which will possibly be giving some of this land some value.
Many will say there is no hope in succeeding in privatizing the world. I say that maybe, we should start trying. The circulation of CO2 in the atmosphere is almost 500 years. So, even if it takes 500 years at least we'll be working towards making the air cleaner which by way of environmental cycles, will effect biodiversity. Even Rands et al. says that an appreciation of the value of biodiversity is key, so we need to start to assign a global value to it.
I wonder what the best way to show society what the benefits of biodiversity are. There has to be one. There has to be a non-scientific way to explain it to the humanities oriented folk and the economically oriented folk and the philosophically oriented folk. So much of today's youth is going to college, these new intellectuals must be able to understand what is going on. I know you (Prof Casey) are vehemently against more suasion but I feel like at some point it may work if we start with educating the new generations on a massive scale.

Matt Parker

As I read through the article, the statistic that stuck with me was that the economic value of benefits from biodiverse natural ecosystems
may be 10 to 100 times the cost of maintaining
them. This statistic stuck with me because putting biodiversity in economic terms is a way to potentially please government officials on both sides of the aisle. Financial incentives have proven to be one of the only ways that environmental issues can be tackled and biodiversity is no exception. However, what this article points out that I hadn't thought about was the notion of (from an earlier comment) "financial support without direction." This also ties into the article's second tier, where we have an obvious lack of cohesive strategies to tackle this increasingly important issue.

One issue with establishing an institution that would focus on biodiversity that biodiversity is too narrow an area of concern. Rands et al wants to see the biodiversity conservation movement become something more, extending beyond an environmental issue, into the treasury and even national security. We have the Environmental Protection Agency but when you have coal and oil industry pouring money into Republican presidential candidates (70m in 2012, 62m for 2016 as of august 2015) you have an obvious disparity in who's voice will likely be heard. Environmental economics has no one right answer, but I fear this is the sort of issue that will be dealt with retroactively unless some people come to their senses.

Spencer Payne

One trend that caught my attention while reading this paper was the fact that “biodiversity continues to decline, even though worldwide conservation efforts are increasing.” To explain why, the authors take the stance that there are significant issues with current conservation programs. In an effort not to repeat what everyone has said, I will not say more about these issues and the three tiers that the authors support. I will instead begin by discussing one challenge that, in my opinion, conservation efforts must overcome to improve biodiversity.

Like I said before, biodiversity continues to decrease despite the fact that conservation efforts are on the rise. But while I agree with the authors that knowledge gaps, exogenous shocks, and inefficient policies contribute to the fact that current efforts are experiencing serious shortcomings, I think that another reality must be considered when seeking to explain the challenges facing conservation efforts. The fact that, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the world population has grown by more that one billion since 2000 certainly makes a difference.

This considerable population increase means that, inherently, demand for and consumption of resources have increased dramatically. With that in mind, it is almost understandable that increased conservation efforts have not yielded positive effects on biodiversity. The population increase has simply created a larger drag on biodiversity than even increased conservation efforts could combat. Therefore, it is important that we ask: Are we convinced that running every existing conservation program at high efficiency would truly be enough improve biodiversity? If we are, improving the efficiency/effectiveness of existing policy should be our focus. But if not, we must both improve existing policy and develop new conservation programs.

Bennett Henson

Biological diversity has been shown to be a desirable ecological trait. Biodiversity not only makes ecological systems more stable and able to withstand exogenous shocks such as hurricanes or natural forest fires, it directly increases human beings' utility by providing services such as carbon sequestration, pest control, medicinal benefits, and other goods and services. However, there are large opportunity costs associated with maintaining biodiversity on earth. As human population increases more space is needed to provide the resources for sustained growth. The trade off here is continued expansion or biodiversity. We have a clash between two desirable things, and biodiversity has been and is losing out to the ever expanding human ecological footprint.

Humans are decreasing biodiversity through habitat destruction or conversion, introducing new species to non-native areas, and taking advantage of open-access harvesting (the tragedy of the commons). In order to prevent the further extinction of species and loss of biodiversity, policy measures that remedy the disparity between the marginal private costs and the marginal social costs of ecological destruction need to be put in place. As this article shows, we have not been doing a good job of implementing effective and efficient policy, and biodiversity has been forced to bear the cost of our ineptitude.

Ali Norton

The paper presented the issue of Biodiversity preservation while highlighting the discrepancy between all available information on biodiversity and lack of meaningful, large scale, effective policy and action to preserve biodiversity. While the author says, “existing knowledge, often including extensive traditional knowledge, is generally underused in decision-making at local, national and international levels” this point made me question what is driving the disconnect between knowledge and policy action and suggests that knowledge alone is not sufficient to generate changing habits or priorities. The author also cites that “international financial investment in biodiversity conservation has been slowly increasing and is estimated to have grown around 38% in real terms between 1992 (when CBD came into force) and 2006” suggesting perhaps that political recognition has inspired change, although not at a large enough scale. As the authors point out, the private sector has the opportunity to prioritize preservation of biodiversity and facilitate the scale up. While the authors claim that “corporate environmental performance is increasingly important to investors and therefore corporate leaders” it seems that if companies are still not prioritizing biodiversity preservation, then perhaps the beginning to a solution would be educating more investors on the importance and significant of biodiversity in hopes of biodiversity gaining more clout with corporate leaders. As the presence of technology increasingly provides access to information and the media, it would be interesting to see campaigns for biodiversity education be present on a large scale, in efforts to influence the importance of biodiversity to general populations and investors, and consequently make biodiversity a heightened priority for corporations.

Hines Liles

The authors of this article are clear to point out that there is a decelerating increase in responses to the need for biodiversity. This is despite an increased awareness of the need for biodiversity protection and increased pressure to help the issue. This just reinforces that the CBD agreement isn’t enough of a response to the issue and that more needs to be done. But this article is very critical of the lack of effort and seems to point at who should be tasked with taking on biodiversity. The authors point out that economists should work with conservationists and policy makers to develop strategies that increase and protect biologically diverse habitats. I agree that these areas of expertise should work together to improve the situation, but it still seems as if not enough would be done. This is a difficult situation that needs to be dealt with in a logical manner that involves all interests.
As the article points out this is in fact a public matter, but combining it with the private sector could be a benefit. However, the article also points out that there are few incentives or opportunities for the private sector (big and small) to change their priorities in relation to biodiversity. Which is why it needs to be viewed has an international public good, that all of the world can benefit from. Although more action seems to take place when it is viewed as a regional public good.

Mackenzie Dalton

Biodiversity is an important thing we need to conserve now however, it isn't seen as a priority. We make decisions based on our personal benefit not cost to society. We frequently don't see the whole picture and look at the negative externalities we are causing for others.

Protecting biodiversity should be an important factor that we think about when making decisions. Protecting nature can give us material goods and important ecosystem services. These services are highly valuable to our society such as carbon sequestration or water purification. However, it is very difficult to get policy makers to support bills that protect biodiversity. Gathering public support or starting at a local level have shown to help spur environmentally friendly policy. Making protecting biodiversity a priority will help fix this issue.

Yishu Liu

The Biodiversity Conservation article does an excellent job explaining and highlighting the importance of biodiversity. Like the article says, biodiversity “provides numerous essential services to society” from material goods, underpinning functions, to nonmaterial benefits like recreation. The paper goes on to assess the current and past efforts at biodiversity conservation. Even though worldwide conservation efforts have increased, biodiversity is still declining. One reason from this occurrence could be due to geographical differences. Conservation efforts could have increased significantly in more developed countries like the United States or Netherlands, which would increase the average worldwide conservation efforts. However, for developing countries with economies that rely on exporting material goods from areas with high biodiversity, the demand to cut down trees and make a living is still present, if not increasing. Biodiversity conservation efforts are stemmed in these countries because they create a conflict of interest for locals and raise the opportunity cost of conserving biodiversity. Together, the two different reactions to biodiversity conservation create the dichotomy of increasing conservation efforts with declining biodiversity

One of the solutions or priorities the authors suggested to stop global loss of biodiversity is “to manage biodiversity as a public good”. I think the theory and intent before the idea is good, but the real life application of this solution is hard to achieve. The definition of a public good is something that is non-excludable and non-rivalrous. Fresh air is our go to example of a public good. Biodiversity is built on ecosystems that provide material goods to society or locals. I don’t think biodiversity can be a public good because the opportunity cost from the loss of biodiversity, e.g. cutting down a tree, is material and does reduce someone’s ability to cut down a tree. In addition, as the writers addressed, biodiversity does not have immediate impacts or one specific actor that it can traced down to. The combination of factors make me think that rebranding biodiversity conservation as a public good will not solve the problem, and the solution could be found in local changes or policies rather than worldwide statistics.

Morgan Trimas

One of the first thoughts I had after reading this paper was that there was so much information and topics put into just a few pages that it was slightly overwhelming. However, I thought it was very interesting that even with an extreme increase in conservation membership, we still just do not have it quite right, because biodiversity is rapidly decreasing. This is in part due to an ever-increasing human population on earth. Something that was discussed in my Intro to Environmental class last semester was that even though we designate areas as set aside for conservation, nature does not necessarily oblige with these set areas. Rather, the impacts we make in our "human realm" can drastically impact the happenings of those wilderness areas.
Another impacting aspect of this paper was Table 1. It states that many of our issues with biodiversity loss stem from a lack of tier 2-enabling via institutions and social views. I think the first target should be changing social views through education, because, in theory, once citizens are passionate about something, the necessary governance follows. I think it is also very important, as the paper addressed, to put the negative externalities associated with biodiversity loss on the taxpayers by putting it in the public sector. This will make economic incentives for protecting biodiversity and our important ecosystem services. Finally, I found it very effective that the paper offered practical and necessary solutions to our problems of biodiversity, instead of only addressing the issues.

Amanda Wahlers

The fact that the benefits of biodiverse ecosystems are valued at 10 to 100 times the cost of maintaining them illustrates the important insights that economics has to offer into how biodiversity should be managed (with care given to its immense but non-monetized value) as well as the real-world limitations to effective management due to discrepancies between private and social costs and benefits.

The Scaling Up Success section of this article made the important point that while diverse attempts at conservation and a variety of approaches have been useful for determining effective solutions, biodiversity is such a whole-ecosystem issue that conservation efforts need to capitalize on past successful strategies in ways that reflect the interconnectedness of the many factors that determine the biodiversity of an ecosystem. This parallels our class discussions about the challenges of addressing all of the contributing factors to, for example, coral reef destruction.

Additionally, the mention that often what is lacking from biodiversity conservation is the institutions and governance structures to enable the conservation reminded me of a lot of the issues we’ve discussed in which developing nations have passed the legislation to address a problem, but there are no effective means of enforcement; an example of this from class is the illegal ivory trade in West African countries.

Ashby Gatens

Of the three priorities “(i) to manage biodiversity as a public good, (ii) to integrate biodiversity into public and private decision-making, and (iii) to create enabling conditions for policy implementation” I believe the second is the most important factor in preserving biodiversity in areas in which tourism is the main contributor to the economy. This is because those economies frequently prioritize the short run profits that come with tourism over the long run economic and non-economic benefits of biodiversity such as environmental stability and resilience when the environment is disrupted in instances of things like hurricanes. If this is in fact the case, the tourists who enter these countries must be taught to value the conservation of the environment and biodiversity. Once this is accomplished, they will demand environmentally friendly tourist attractions, incentivizing those involved in tourism to alter their practices to meet the change in demand while also conserving the environment.

Shlomo Honig

I find it interesting how the paper discusses how crucial it is to eliminate the substantial knowledge gap that exists today and to better our understanding of complex functional relationships in ecosystems. Where traditional knowledge is readily available, we need to be able to translate this knowledge into policy, especially when more recently developed scientific data is lacking. While this should be a given, expanding on our knowledge today is still critically important.
A key question here is how we should shape our policies. Should we formulate conservation policy based on traditional knowledge and designate resources to establishing the complementary governing body meant to monitor and enforce said policy? Or should we postpone any action that we take until we’ve reached an information breakthrough that changes the way we see the problem? Similar to the case of Coase and Pigou, as well as most of the policy-related discussions we have in class, it depends. It depends on the country and its economic situation, on how urgently the conservation measures are needed, and on how soundly we currently understanding the situation and its solutions.
In both scenarios there are significant opportunity costs and tradeoffs – the first scenario gives up better knowledge for immediate change, while the second scenario rolls the dice and waits for something better to come along, all the while postponing meaningful policy. Granted, a country that is not strapped for cash could probably more flexibly transition from a policy based on traditional knowledge to one based on newly acquired knowledge over time. The moral of the story is that there will always be technological innovations and better solutions through ongoing research and development. We are therefore forced to decide whether it is more logical to let environmental damages accrue as we “bank on” more efficient solutions to arise, or whether we should just employ the strategies we have today in spite of our knowledge that they will soon be obsolete.

Lilly Grella

As many people have said before me, it is shocking that there is a large group of people supporting and actively working to maintain biodiversity while we are still losing so many species. It seems to be one of those things that people acknowledge but when thinking of conservation, most think of the three Rs, reduce reuse recycle. While those obviously can help decrease the biodiversity loss, it is not necessarily the most effective way. Some things we can do are protect more areas, prevent species introductions, and promote and educate citizens on the importance of biodiversity and environmental health. It is scary to think that if we continue in the way we are headed, there will be so many animals that we may never see again. Loss of species will continue unless drastic measures are taken. I think it is very important and exciting that the UN added sustainability into their millennium goals and as of 2015 they have even added biodiversity as its own goal. While this is a great thing and a great step in curbing biodiversity loss, more must be done. We need to make biodiversity loss and human-caused extinction a thing of the past. We can’t be lackadaisical about this issue any longer.

Sierra Tamm

I thought that Table 1 gave an interesting summary of how we can deal with biodiversity loss. I think that the tiered approach should help illustrate the steps that need to be taken. While the tiers seem to be in a hierarchical order beginning with foundational and moving to instrumental, one would assume that the third tier, instrumental, is the one that is successful the least amount of time. However, in the description of the table, it says that the middle tier, enabling is most often ineffective. The second tier reflects the government as well as social behavior. While I think that governments should reflect the decisions of the people they are governing, it seems that there must be a disconnect between the two groups if this is where the breakdown of the tiers happens. An appropriate example of this is the Flint water crisis. Government officials made decisions that would affect the citizens of Flint without considering how they would value their options. Initially it may have seemed like the benefits of cheaper water were the most important aspect of the shift to taking water from the Flint River instead of Lake Huron. However, had officials asked the people of Flint it seems like they would have paid more for clean water if it meant that their children were not exposed to lead.

Walker Abbott

This article provided a thorough but concise overview of the problem our world is facing with biodiversity. Rands et al. articulated that the second tier, institutions and social perception, is the weakest link of the biodiveristy strategy. Regardless of legislation, technology, or information, if the majority of the earth's' population does not recognize the need for action towards preserving biodiversity, other attempts will only have a minor effect.

I thought there were many points in this article that connected the Chapter 14 and Chapter 17 readings on Biodiversity and Agriculture. As we discussed some in class Tuesday, agriculture is one of the leading causes of deforestation and is overtaking much of our land use space. In the United States particularly, industrial agriculture promotes monoculture - planting only a few commodity species (soybeans, corn, wheat) and eliminating diverse native species to keep a farm "clean." In tropical countries, Rands et al. mentions that oil palm trees have taken over much of the landscape to produce oils; "Remaining terrestrial biodiversity is therefore increasingly confined to fragmented patches separated by expanding cultivation, infrastructure, and residential and industrial development."

I thought Rands et al. made another good point regarding ocean preservation. In contrast to land areas, Marine ecosystems are often neglected in terms of protection areas even though some of the most diverse ecosystems (such as coral reefs) are aquatic. The article points out that while protected ecosystems are a step in the right direction, these efforts have limited efficacy when habitats are small and fragmented.

Alison Peacock

During this article, the authors briefly talk about the Millennium Development Goals and the Sustainable Development Goals. These are world-wide goals that each country is encouraged to work towards. In a previous Environmental Policy class, we discussed these goals and the COP 21 talks that occurred in Paris this past December. While these goals are something everyone should strive to achieve, they are almost too general to have a lot of value. The Sustainable Development Goals include goals like Goal #6-Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all and Goal #13-Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. There are no concrete solutions given on how we should reach these goals. In order to make an impact, countries need to make solid, achievable policies.

I was wondering if we could go more in depth on the Sustainable Development Goals and what progress has been made with respect to biodiversity. I also would be interested in hearing people’s views on the COP21 talks that occurred last year and if people feel that the talks were successful. After COP15 in Copenhagen, there was some discussion that the talks were not effective and a strong enough agreement was not reached. Is the outlook more positive now? Have we moved forward since then?

Rachel Stone

One of the priorities Rands et al. mentions is managing biodiversity as a public good. I think doing that and educating the world on the value of biodiversity, we might then be able to more easily implement policy changes to help with conservation. Clearly, as indicated by at least one speaker at mock convention earlier this year, not everyone believes that climate change is a real thing. Now we of course know that it is, but the article says that just 12% of Earth’s land surface, 0.5% of oceans and 5.9% of territorial seas have protected-area status. Furthermore, "more than two-thirds of critical sites for biodiversity have incomplete protection or none at all." These are unacceptably low percentages for something that economists and environmentalists argue has so much value. Yet the lack of education on the value of biodiversity is likely a contributing factor to these low percentages. Not only does this hinder conservation efforts, but it also threatens economies in locations that depend on this biodiversity for tourism. It's not enough to just wait for policy implementations to come into effect. That alone does not seem like it will be very successful. I think the combination of policy implementation, more education, moral suasion and even privatization could help to save these critical biodiverse sites.

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