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02/29/2016

Comments

Cara Hayes

This article did a great job of highlighting the threats to biodiversity, which are happening on all corners of the Earth. I was very surprised by the negative effects that agriculture has on biodiversity. I had always thought of farming as an environmentally friendly process and had not considered the widespread effects of the agriculture industry on biodiversity. Over-abstraction of water for agriculture is an issue I knew little about but, after discussing it in class, seems extremely pressing and easily resolved by increasing the cost of water to farmers. Additionally, shifts in agriculture demands, like the increased demands for many vegetable oils, is rising prices and therefore incentivizing farmers to grow more, even if the cost of that is habitat destruction. I found it interesting how Rand et. al pointed out that "existing knowledge...is generally underused in decision-making at a local, national, and international level," implying that environmental economists have thoroughly researched these issues yet policy makers do not fully consider their findings.

Richer, more developed nations need to share advancements in agricultural techniques that protect biodiversity with less developed nations so they too can benefit. The proposed Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services sounds like it would be very helpful in empowering developing countries incorporate new scientific findings into their policies. This is very important because, although "the challenges of working across administrative and national boundaries are considerable,"... "protected areas need to be managed as a coherent network rather than as isolated habitat islands in order to sustain biodiversity, particularly in the face of climate change."

Owen Brannigan

The problem of biodiversity is one that cannot be solved without a unanimous effort to place value in the conservation of a wide variety of species and protection of their environments. Rands et al. states that the economic value of protecting the environment could be 10 to 100 times the value of not protecting it. This statistic stuck with me. If there is evidence to support this claim, why are there not more efforts being taken to protect the destruction of biodiveristy throughout the world. I also enjoyed this article because it outlined the things people were doing right when it came to biodiversity and what we could improve on as a whole. I think the question of impoverished people taking a stand in protecting against biodiversity loss is a serious issue that needs to be discussed. It's one of those issues that we are constantly discussing that really doesn't have a direct path or correct solution. It is all on a situational basis, but I think exploring some of the ways the article discussed, such as extra incentives and subsidies is a path the governments of rural impoverished communities should take into account. I thought the discussion of oceans was also significant. Although they account for arguably more biodiversity in the world, they are often not protected as fiercely as terrestrial lands.

Emily Rollo

I think the significance of the economic value of biodiversity all over the world is commonly undermined. An individual must have adequate knowledge in order to understand that biodiversity serves a role in maintaining human development and welfare, which are important components of economic growth for countries. Most people, especially in developing countries, do not have this adequate knowledge, so they do not see the urgent need to sustain their country’s biodiversity. I think this part of the biodiversity conservation challenge is the most difficult to overcome. It is so challenging because the knowledge must be met with good, stable institutions. This approach made me think about the problems that Ecuador faces today. The country is home to some of the world’s most bio diverse environment. At the same time, it holds an abundance of natural resources. Mainly, its largest resource is crude oil. However, the extraction of that oil is ruining and contaminating the environment. As a result, the country’s growth rate is not very high. If compared to the growth of Latin American countries, theirs is much lower. This article enlightened me to the possibility of the root of the economic growth problem. They do not have many efficient institutions in place that work on conserving the biodiversity. They are only concerned with the gains they make from the extracted oil. Interestingly, they are actually not making any national gains because their country's biodiversity is suffering due to the lack of conservation knowledge and institutions. I think this problem is probably prevalent in other countries since the demand for oil is so high. But at the same time, the demand for biodiversity conservation is high.

Mitchell Brister

One of the main issues facing biodiversity is the fact that agriculture covers so much land and is constantly expanding as the population increases and consumption continues to increase. As with most environmental policy the key is to get the big players, being the US and China, to comply and lead the charge. And as we know with regulation and lobbyists in the US, it is really hard to impose a lot of restrictions on US farmers. On top of this food consumption is something that is seen as a basic human right that everyone consumes, so raising the price of food to truly reflect the social cost is a very difficult proposal to get everyone on board with. On thing that came to my mind when reading this article was the development of indoor farming methods that are used in Japan. These facilities can be built on multiple stories which may help with the expansive farming issue that is threatening biodiversity.

Benjamin Bayles

The article claims that recent estimates have found the “economic value of benefits from biodiversity natural ecosystems may be 10 to 100 times the cost of maintaining them.” I don’t doubt the long term economic value to be immense, but this just seems extremely hard to calculate. Granted the study was done by Cambridge(an extremely respected university), it seems implausible to be able to place a value on biodiversity seeing as so much of its benefits are based on the resilience and stability provided. This does perhaps explain the large range provided (10 to 100), but with it being so large it makes me wonder how valuable this claim is. I tried to find the study to determine if, and in turn, which revealed preference model they used, but was unsuccessful. Most of the models we have discussed so far seemed to be on more immediate and tangible traits (seeing more sea turtles, number of whale sharks to swim with, etc…) It seems it would be harder for people to place value on something as abstract as biodiversity.

Ryan Ellis

Out of all the solutions for improving biodiversity presented in this piece, economic and noneconomic, I have to agree with the notion of decreasing the knowledge gap, especially amongst individuals who would show a genuine interest in helping the cause. Most secondary education in the US requires scientific courses to be taught such as environmental studies and biology. Where this education is lacking is explaining degradation as a primary topic. By educating individuals from an early age about the ramifications of harmful environmental practices and how species extinction plays a role in those harms, the need for change will be engrained to a large audience at an early age. Economically, the behavior of actors can be predicted from models and trends, but in order to raise awareness of biodiversity degradation, formal schooling is necessary. This is not by any means a short term solution, but this will ensure a much broader range of thought that cannot be achieved through policy changes and economic reform.

Oliver Nettere

A little tidbit I found interesting in the biodiversity paper was the issue of government subsidies and how they can be deleterious to biodiversity levels. The paper didn't go deep into this issue but stated that government subsidies in agriculture, forestry, and fisheries could often be unsustainable and harmful to overall biodiversity levels. The midwestern ethanol subsidy that we have talked about in class is a good example of this fact where subsidizing this industry leaves a roughly homogeneous landscape with limited biodiversity in an area that theoretically would otherwise be more diverse native grasses that would likely support a more diverse assemblage of species. Not only does this subsidy decrease biodiversity levels, its net benefit to decrease use of fossil fuels and therefore emissions simply doesn't exist as production and processing of the corn for ethanol is actually more energy intensive. I'd like to learn more about which government subsidies are sustainable and which ones aren't. This paper proposed to address this question with the three points that subsidies must support: 1) biodiversity conservation, 2) poverty alleviation, and 3) the demands of a sustainable economy.

Mamie Smith

This article was my favorite one so far. It addresses the major points about diversity problems, what plans have been made, and why they're not working. It also addresses the main components of what needs to be done to bring about progress. I think that one of the main factors that makes environmental issues like biodiversity so complicated to solve is how interrelated, interdisciplinary, and correlative the issues are with still a layer of uncertainty. Because of so much interrelated complexity, there are so many tradeoffs. For example, I never quite realized that, as this article mentions, technology and initiatives for solving climate change can negatively impact other aspects of the environment, such as biodiversity. Deciding which situations maximize utility is difficult. Who determines what factors play into measuring the value of an environmental good or service, and is there one uniform valuation process that the community of economists have overall agreed upon? Right now, it seems that our society is still in a fairly early stage of paradigms concerning economic understanding of how to best control the environment and which policies are the most efficient for societies to get to the point of best control. Both scientific and economic theory (esp. addressing new topics) seem to move forward by solving and creating new paradigms.

While reading this article, one question that popped into my head was whether the special factors of the biodiversity negative externality (distant in time and space) impact economic models because of a difference in marginal social cost. Also, what would happen to the economy if agricultural subsidies were taken away? Would the long-term effects be better? Would consumers overall save money on cost of living because of not having to pay for externalities (filtering water, paying more for health due to pesticides and hormones, etc)? Or would people just have to cut back on purchasing food overall because of higher costs?

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