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Allie Case

I think Krutilla's article serves as one of the foundations for how to find the balance between natural science and economics in conservation. While limiting or halting production may be in the best interest/considered the "right thing to do" from a biologist's viewpoint, the loss in economic productivity would ultimately be more detrimental. Instead, Krutilla revolutionizes the idea that there is economic value to be found in preserved or untouched nature.
There was an interesting article from Resources Magazine that really helped me understand why this article is so revolutionary. Because upon reading it, most of the arguments about why conservation of the natural environment is important seem almost obvious, in the sense that they are so prevalent in today's discussion of conservation. According to the article, titled "'Conservation Reconsidered' Turns 50: The Environmental Turn in Natural Resource Economics", there were two camps for Environmentalism in the 1960's. One was "conservation" which defined conservation as a good in itself, with emphasis on "wise use" of natural resources. On the other hand, there was the "preservation" camp headed by none other than John Muir. He argued for the value of nature just as it was, which sounds more like Krutilla's writings. I think the title and importance of Krutilla's work makes more sense now. In a way, his writings bridged the two camps together and showed that something as abstract as the value in untouched nature/future possibilities found in nature should fall under economists' care. In this sense, readers are "reconsidering" the "conservation" camp at this time in history.
One question I had while reading this article is what Krutilla's opinions were on development for the sake of recreational ability. I couldn't tell if he though positively or negatively about it- in some instances he seems to be a strong advocate for it in order to get more support for ecosystem research and for the enjoyment of the consumer, but other times he warns of not developing with areas where the opportunity cost of destroying an area may be more than that of paying to preserve it.

Here's the link to the anniversary article: https://www.resourcesmag.org/archives/conservation-reconsidered-turns-50-the-environmental-turn-in-natural-resource-economics/

Margot McConnell

Krutilla’s article places importance emphasis on finding the right “balance” when it comes to conservation. On one hand, we want to conserve ecosystems and natural resources around the world completely by stopping as much destruction as possible. However, we must realize that there comes to be an economic balance between conservation and productive, and the answer it not to stop destruction but rather to reconsider how we are going to reserve these resources before anything further detrimental happens in which there are negative effects to human welfare.
Reading this article on conservation from the 1960s made me wonder what conservation efforts are being made today. One of the articles I came across was discussing that in Nevada, they are looking to change their approach to conservation by increased funding and more public engagement. More and more species are coming closer to extinction, and a lot of it has to do with global warming because it is changing the habitats of these animals, and it is causing them to get more diseases due to the warmer climate. Another interesting point the article makes is that historically 95% of revenue for the Department of Wildlife came from mostly hunting and some fishing. Therefore, they want to restructure funding towards wildlife efforts to increase revenue without relying so heavily on hunting and fishing. Additionally, they are aiming to increase public engagement by educating people about the “real” importance of these ecosystems. People tend to have an appreciation for nature and wildlife, but they fail to really consider that these places are where animals live and how we keep biodiversity present. The article does note, however, that receiving federal funding for such projects like conservation of wildlife is difficult to come by. One thing that is interesting is that government tends to support gun makers because there are loopholes which allow these companies to make incredible profits. If only those profits were going to conservation efforts rather than gun makers.

Giddings Harrison

I enjoyed Krutilla's "Conversation Reconsidered" as it stressed not just the economic importance of natural resources (ie. profit), but the environmental and ethical value of nature. This article felt highly interdisciplinary and allowed some questions to go unanswered, such as: how do we value the environment? Krutilla pointed to recreational activities outdoors as one way to value the environment. By teaching people to camp, kayak, or fish, perhaps more people would demand wilderness-related opportunities. However, the most recent Census data shows that only 19% of the U.S. population lives in rural areas, which makes up 97% of the U.S. land. I wonder if the trend towards urbanization has left people out of touch from nature and, thus, less likely to value it? Nonetheless, Krutilla brings in the idea of option demand, the willingness to pay to have the option to use an area that would be impossible to replace, such as the Grand Canyon. While I have never been to the Grand Canyon, I would like to see it. This idea of creating a market for option demand seems like a viable way to conserve natural landscapes that are irreplaceable and have no close substitute.

Nikki Doherty

When we recognize the intrinsic value of nature, what the trade-off between production and preservation is becomes a more difficult question. Economists rarely values things simply for their existence. Instead, economists focus on production. I think that Krutilla tries to reframe valuing nature for its existence—by suggesting that its mere existence can be viewed as a form of production—to appeal to those who hold to this more traditional economic thought. Krutilla proves that the existence of something like the Grand Canyon or the wilderness produces necessities for scientific research, produces utility for those who enjoy recreation, and produces amenities for future generations.

Right now, intertemporal choice and utilization—making decisions about how much of a resource to use in a given time period because these decisions affect the resources that will later be available to us—dominates conversations about natural resources. Krutilla says that this is the wrong approach; rather than rationing our resources, we should be substituting to technological advances. Later, he effectively proves that resource use is the place where substitution should occur, especially because the natural environment is not able to be effectively substituted with advancements in technologies.
It is interesting to attempt to place myself in 1967, the time of this piece. I wonder what the common person valued a natural environment at. To a certain extent, by placing myself back and forth in time (in the context of 1967 and the present), I am more convinced of Krutilla’s argument because the perceived value has of preservations has increased over the time period to the present day: the natural environment has shown appreciating value. Thinking about the conversations I have heard regarding climate change and the environment, I believe that behavior motivated by the desire to leave an estate for future generations is very strong. I often hear people say “I want my kids to be able to do this one day” or “I want my grandkids to be able to see things like this.” Krutilla seems to have predicted this. I think that a lack of information and experience with environmental recreation areas may cause an underestimate of the value of conservation. The value that an individual places on a preservation area or outside recreational space is dependent upon their prior experiences with the area or similar areas. They need to know about its existence, and further need to have skills in how to enjoy it. Because not all individuals have the privilege, means, or information to partake in recreational activity, the value given to the space is lower than it could be. By making knowledge and activities more accessible to the all members of the public, we may be able to increase the value of the existence of preservations.

I think our government misses the mark in being “the trustees for unborn generations” and is often too concerned with preserving existing pleasures for their current citizens. Those working in government are averse to taking away current freedoms or limiting currently available resources because they fear upsetting the majority. Just as Hardin argued in “The Tragedy of the Commons,” it is important for us to realize that recognizing the need to cut back on freedoms or resources available to us now, will allow for greater freedoms later.

One thing that I was left unclear about is his focus on preserving the greatest biological diversity possible. If we are relying on a market of option to preserve parts of nature, how can we insure diversity if people do not value all landscapes equally? How can we monitor the distribution?

Max Gebauer

In this piece, the unique qualities of natural objects were demonstrated to significantly complicate the question of valuation. The distinction between naturalness and artificiality, exhaustibility, and inter temporal valuation all are prominent dimensions of the question.

Krutilla raises a point that features heavily in philosophical work on the environment, naturalness and artificiality. When it comes to how individuals and groups value natural landmarks for instance, it appears to be inescapable that the value placed on their existence and desirability is partially a function of their status as a natural object. A thought experiment can demonstrate this, imagine that humanity were to destroy all old-growth forests in the world, but then we develop the tech that allows us to grow trees of the exact same appearance and the same in every meaningful way overnight. Arguably, people still would value the natural version more. This demonstrates that part of the value of natural goods is intrinsic and a function of their naturalness and is not fully reducible to just its physical structure and appearance (Krutilla also argues for the existence of intrinsic value by noting individual's willingness to pay solely to allow some species to not go extinct). Therefore, the ability to recreate natural settings (which would actually be artifacts) does not allow one to capture this dimension of values. Thus, their is a higher value than one might think for natural landmarks for example.

A related aspect to the above argument concerns exhaustibility, although for many types of production, scholars have argued its possible we have a near unlimited ability to produce (certain classes of goods that is, for a discussion on the exhaustibility of energy energy, see Harari 18). However, many environmental goods appear to be exhaustible by definition, which when combined with the next argument on the inter-temporal dimension of the question, can yield a distorted understanding of value. Option-value throws yet another wrench into the analysis as many people pay simply for the potentiality of a future preference to enjoy the good even if no current preference exists. This value is important when a good is exhaustible.

Finally, the inter-temporal dimension complicates analysis as Krutilla notes that it's likely that there are social and economic mechanisms the make increased demand for environmental goods in the future higher. Even with discounting, this is still an important factor in determining value. Assuming demand to be constant for such goods would be extremely problematic.

Olivia Luzzio

Krutilla, as well as a plethora of other environmental economists, asserts that we have a responsibility to ensure environmental preservation to the extent that future generations can continue to reap its benefits. In the Economics of Development last semester, we discussed the proposition that it is our duty to “leave the earth as we found it” to ensure that future populations are as well-off as we are. However, realizing that this is both impossible and inefficient, we revised the statement to affirm that it is our duty to leave the earth in a manner such that future generations have the capability to be as well-off as we are. Judging from his paper, I believe that Krutilla would agree largely with this statement. For example, he addresses the argument that improvements in technology can compensate for the depletion of natural resources. By investing in research and development, our generation is attempting to leave the next generation the capability to be as well-off, if not more well-off than we are. Renewable energy technology represents a simple example. By developing ways to harvest and store wind, solar, and hydro power, we make up for the fact that forthcoming populations will not have access to as vast a quantity of fossil fuels. Though they will rely on a different form of energy, they will have the ability to maintain the same standard of living that we have today.
On the other hand, Krutilla acknowledges that new technology cannot account for some aspects of environmental detriment caused by humans. In order to leave the next generation with the same natural science and recreational capabilities as we have now, a portion of the environment must be preserved in whole. I find it interesting and slightly horrifying that he quantifies the precise minimum acreage of untouched land necessary to sustain scientific research, because I do not like to think that we would ever reach that limit. However, one could argue the benefits of quantifying as much as possible when it comes to environmental economics, because it is so difficult to measure the costs and benefits in the field.


While reading Conservation Reconsidered by John Krutilla, I was constantly reminded of a hot and controversial topic at my family's dinner table. That topic is the United States Department of Agriculture’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). I have always listened to very passionate discussions from pro CRP and anti CRP members of my family in regards to our soybean and corn farm in central Illinois. I decided to learn more about the program through the eyes of Krutilla so I could have the knowledge to form my own opinion. Created in 1985, this program financially compensates farmers (the rental value of the land) who do not grow crops or let animals graze on particular tracts of land and grow native species of plants. “The long-term goal of the program is to re-establish valuable land cover to help improve water quality, prevent soil erosion, reduce loss of wildlife habitat, and restore forests and wetlands” (USDA). Priority is given to the following areas: sectors with high erosion, farmland where the runoff leads directly into a stream, and areas that support endangered wildlife. This program has had success in Illinois which has seen an increase in the white-tailed deer and North American beaver populations. Additionally, the program has support from the farmers who offer the land to be placed in this program. The farmer in Illinois who cultivates our farm is a big supporter of CRP and has placed over 50 acres of our land under CRP. He said that the guaranteed annual payment is attractive and also is a good economic and environmental use of land that either does not fit equipment, isn't flat enough (very hard to find in IL), or is not an efficient shaped to be farmed. Dan Charles, NPR’s agriculture correspondent stated that it is “one reason why Dust Bowl conditions haven't returned to the Great Plains in recent years, despite droughts that were as bad as in the 1930s” (NPR). However, not everyone is a supporter of CRP. In Illinois, agricultural companies such as John Deere and Monsanto are opponents of the program as it reduces the amount of land where they can sell their products to be used on. Additionally, many environmentalists believe that more should be done. Many argue that focusing on relatively small and sporadic plots of land does not greatly benefit the whole ecosystem and that the USDA should focus on “particular rivers or wildlife habitats and convince farmers in those areas to enroll large blocks of land in the CRP” (Charles). I personally think that Krutilla would be a supporter of CRP land as it helps preserve natural biota to be used for drug development or crop crossbreeding and increases the future option value of the land. This interesting discussion of if and how the USDA should administer CRP land will continue to be debated around the country, just as it is at my family's dinner table.

USDA. “Conservation Reserve Program.” Conservation Reserve Program, United States Department of Agriculture, www.fsa.usda.gov/programs-and-services/conservation-programs/conservation-reserve-program/index.

Charles, Dan. “The CRP: Paying Farmers Not to Farm.” NPR, NPR, 11 July 2005, www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4736044.

Patrick Sullivan

Krutilla takes an interesting approach to environmental conservation in his work Conservation Reconsidered. While his work asked many important questions, he left the reader lacking in answers. Was that the main intention of his paper, or is the research just not completed enough to give us answers as to minimum levels of each natural resource that we would need. While these questions are crucial to ask, I believe that more concrete answers should be provided unless they are otherwise unavailable. In light of this however, I felt he made some really interesting points as to the future of how we should attack this issue. One of the more interesting, in my opinion, is when he asserts that advances in technology can be a catalyst to more efficient and productive resource depletion. These advances in technology may eventually curb the need to conserve current vital resources, as new alternatives are developed and used by future generations. This can have a multitude of effects on future generations as research will be able to focus on different issues then the ones currently at hand. The contemporary problem is the desire of individuals in the private sector to prioritize these developments in order to conserve the environment. I think the desire to pursue these alternative forms of energy can best be explained by how we value our natural resources. Krutilla makes a compelling point when describing how we can promote environmental valuation. He asserts that if more people participated in outdoor activities, then there would be a greater valuation by citizens to preserve that natural resource. Greater valuation of natural resources by individuals would in turn create more desire, and hopefully more capital, movement towards conservation efforts. While I think his idea is a good starting point, it reminded me slightly of our discussion on moral suasion and how that isn’t very effective on a large scale. Overall these efforts could have profound effects on generations to come and hopefully create a better environment for future humans.

Christopher Watt

The Krutilla paper, “Conservation Reconsidered,” is fascinating for me due to my passion for land conservation, both for recreational and biodiversity purposes. A particularly interesting aspect of the paper is the discussion of option demand, a concept I was not previously familiar with. It seems that this is a large driver of conservation efforts for many individuals, organizations, and governmental entities, such as the Parks service. Making the distinction to protect lands for the “option” of future use without the intention to use them in the present, there is definitely reason for concern about the market forces that will support this type of demand. There often seems to be a tradeoff in people’s minds about the environment’s short and long term value; consumerism and contemporary resource extraction are often put in opposition with long term benefits of land protection for nature, wildlife, and humans. Considering the discussion of the land’s value for future scientific use, protecting biodiversity, and offering wilderness area for increased recreation use, there seems to be more contemporary market incentives for increasing option demand: conservation easements. Though they were not explicitly mentioned in the paper, they provide a market based solution for preserving lands and natural resources forever. By offering incentives to private property owners in the form of tax deductions and credits, they give organizations such as the Nature Conservancy (mentioned in paper), Ducks Unlimited, or governmental entities, rights to protecting the land, barring development of the land or extraction of resources in a way that would be detrimental to the biodiversity present and ability for future generations to use the land. Though not all easements give the public access to these lands, allowing private land holders to maintain the majority of their property rights, they guarantee that these lands will be protected to be able to be enjoyed by future generations and provide a preserves for native wildlife. See this link for more information: https://www.conservationeasement.us/storymap/index.html

I also found it interesting that the paper made no explicit mention of climate change or the value of land preservation for mitigation of environmental degradation such as through carbon sequestration. I assume that there was little discussion of this issue in 1967 when the paper was published. I’d love to discuss this further in class.


I think the article brings up a great point as to the theme of consumption present in society. There is an important distinction made that more production and consumption will eventually lead to a decreased standard of living for the whole. In a society that thrives off of social, technological, and industrial ‘progress,’ it is difficult to fathom a society that is content. I also feel that in the every advancing field of science, there is always ‘more to be discovered’ and as a result members of society are accustomed to waiting for the next discover to disprove the previously accepted assumption (ie. the Pluto is a planet view shifted to Pluto is not a planet and everything you learned in school is wrong). In the realm of environmental attitudes, the media and “skeptics” have portrayed environmental science as still in its infantile phase, even though the theories have been around for years, with most supported by substantial evidence. Because the article first presents the problems associated with natural resources use, I became curious as to why an effective policy has not yet been reached. The conclusion I have arrived at is that because the problems of natural resource allocation and conservation impact so many sections of society, it is just too large of an issue to easily grasp. Because it involves science, and new discoveries are being made every day, there is also the realm of thought that maybe too much value being placed on something that the general public does not see in their day-to-day life. Many will hear about the negative responses of the environment to an increased use of fossil fuels, but few will actually study the science or see the harmful effects.
It is obvious that some people are able to place value on things they cannot see (WWF endangered species), but I am unsure the best way to evoke the same type of care for, literally, the entire world when there are so many parts being affected. It is easy to evoke compassion for the almost extinct species of money in the Amazon, but yet it is hard to evoke compassion for the ozone, the air quality, the ocean levels, the temperature at the poles, and the depleting resources available. There is obviously the ability for humans to care about something they cannot see, but it seems that there is no great solution for advertising causes that need attention in a meaningful way.

Lauren Paolano

I found Krutilla’s “Conversation Reconsidered” because it stressed the importance of the environmental and ethical value of nature. Krutilla also made me think about how individuals can better value our environment. This can be done by increasing recreational activities that use water and land such as teaching people how to camp, kayak, fish or even enjoy outdoor sports in public parks. The intrinsic value of nature is truly beautiful and something I even personally take for granted while living in Lexington, VA. I am from Long Island but have spent much of my younger life traveling New York City. I chose Washington and Lee because of its beautiful mountain scenery and have yet to fully embrace its breath taking views and hikes until recently.
Something this article made me think about was the use of technology aiding human life with GPS navigation. It is difficult for me to travel long or short distances without using my phone for google maps. This takes away our person interest in nature and appreciating the environment while we embark on long journeys for road trips. While I lived in Florence last year, there were no Ubers and I had to learn to get around from walking. I walked about 30 minutes to and from class from my apartment every day. This time definitely helped me get adjusted better to my surroundings and appreciate the beautiful architecture and environment around me.

Valerie Marshall

After reading Krutilla’s piece, one particular quote from his paper really stuck out to me. This was his comment that “natural environments will represent irreplaceable assets of appreciating value with the passage of time” (8). I would think this comment of his was revolutionary then, since in the present day I think it is still a bold idea and something that is not discussed often enough. I am not an economics major, so reading this quote made me wonder how and if there is a way for economists to factor in the natural environment’s appreciating value into their formulas of cost benefit analysis. Especially from a policy standpoint I think this would be crucial to achieve. Often, what political opponents will use to block important environmental legislation or rule-making is requiring a cost benefit analysis of future regulations, and requiring the benefits exceed the costs. When it comes to nature, it is extremely hard to put a monetary value on it, and while I have never seen an official cost benefit for an environmental policy, I would imagine preserved nature is often undervalued. Given that economists tend to believe that people value present goods more than future goods, I wonder if this further increases the severity to which the environment is undervalued. Therefore, recognizing the appreciating value of nature in cost benefit analysis of regulations could be huge in passing future environmental policy, and to me this might be the most important idea to come out of Krutilla’s paper.

Maisie Strawn

It is interesting to read Krutilla’s essay in the context of the recent rollbacks of environmental regulations by President Trump (https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/climate/trump-environment-rollbacks.html for some sense of just how much degregulation has occured). The rationale behind Trump’s crusade to deregulate environmental degradation seems to be to allow for less hindrances to development and industry, but this may not be the kind of development we should be focusing on at all. All of this deregulation will and does lead to the conversion of natural environments that Krutilla writes about. I believe Krutilla would be horrified by the rollbacks on environmental protection, instead arguing that we need to slow the destruction of land and other natural resources (especially by aging, unsustainable industries) and instead invest in new technology that will allow us to actually improve quality of life while preserving nature for future uses. I think humans, in general, are fairly short-sighted, so it’s not that surprising that we seem to have a hard time grasping the idea of refraining to use something now (like natural resources) because it might be more useful to us later. Unfortunately, it seems that this phenomenon is often compounded by our political and economic systems which are dominated by short-term decisions (2, 4, or 6 year-terms for politics and quarterly earnings for our financial system). We need to find some way to build long-term thinking into our institutions to better pursue what Krutilla lays out so plainly in “Conservation Reconsidered.”


Krutilla’s “Conservation Reconsidered” was a fascinating and provocative discussion about how we value natural resources in both an abstract and formal sense. I especially found interest in the exploration of an options market where natural resources would be assigned values based on market forces. I also thought Krutilla saying that the conservation of certain resources is now null because technological advancements allow us to essentially substitute is very similar to the viewpoint of Robert Solow offered in his paper "Sustainability: An Economist's Prospective. Therefore the purpose of sustainability has shifted to ensuring the utility derived from the natural world, what it intrinsically provides through it beauty, majesty, etc, is maintained while still garnering an environment conducive to innovation and societal progress which is not achievable under current pricing constructs. The determination of where the optimal equilibrium of these two conflicting notions is very difficult to determine because of the lack of formal and established markets for natural resource valuations based on recreation not industry or agriculture. Personally my family has dealt with this issue. My great grandmother purchased a 200 acre property in Vermont in 1965. My family has owned it ever since and is now owned jointly by my father and two uncles. The question of whether to put it in a conservation easement was posited, which would prevent any future commercial or residential development. However, it was decided not to do as the tax benefits didn’t justify the drop in valuation the property would take. Using this example, obviously on a microscopic scale, we can see the decision making people make when in these situation. On a more macro scale because the social benefit of say the grand canyon cannot be fully extracted through traditional commercial means while maintaining compatibility with sustainable use practices it becomes clear the objective of a private profit maximizing individual in this case would break the use of sustainable practices in order to maximize profit and NAV through discounting future income streams.

Furthermore, the discussion of people gaining satisfaction from just knowing say polar bears live in the artic was fascinating. I think the notion of people assigning value to notions, sentiments, and ideas that something, in the context of this paper and class environmental and ecological preservation, should not be something new. People have always assigned values to things they have direct interaction with. A great deal of people would say they value, in one from or another, the knowledge that something exists. The difficulty is aggregating said sentiments into creating some sort of valuation.

Adam Harter

In Krutilla’s piece, he discusses why private firms coming in and destroying natural phenomena to operate their business of natural resource collection is not a good idea. This insensible extraction does not happen because even if a firm has an extremely high willingness to pay, the benefits for conserving a beautiful scenic are priceless to the people and the environment. The supply of natural phenomena is fixed, and I would argue impossible to create again. While reading this, it’s easy to think that it is obvious that any firm that is willing to destroy a natural phenomenon is a) very terrible and b) should be stopped.
Krutilla paints a clear picture of a firm that would come into Arizona and ruin the Grand Canyon. This vision of destruction causes a strong emotional response from me, and probably the rest of the readers as it sounds like a nightmare to destroy a global sight of significance. In this scenario, we are easily able to identify who is the antagonist that should get out of this area. But unlike in the 60s, we now know the damages that carbon emissions and pollution can do to beautiful scenic landscapes. Because of the disconnect, it becomes hard to blame Saudi Aramco (the number one polluting firm in the world with 4.50% of all greenhouse gas emissions) for the receding glaciers in Alaska.
Nevertheless, these firms are still responsible for the damage. A recent study concluded that 100 companies are responsible for 71% of global emissions in the world. Not surprisingly, most of these companies are in the fossil fuel industry. No matter how much the individual feels that they can make a difference by behaving environmentally responsibly, no real change will happen until these firms are under stricter restrictions. Once we treat firms like building that new, heavily polluting oil refinery in Saudi Arabia, is like they are building it in plain view, next to the glacier, then real change will be made.
Study: https://b8f65cb373b1b7b15feb-c70d8ead6ced550b4d987d7c03fcdd1d.ssl.cf3.rackcdn.com/cms/reports/documents/000/002/327/original/Carbon-Majors-Report-2017.pdf?1499691240

Bridget Bartley

While I support much of what Krutilla discusses in his work “Conservation Reconsidered,” I reflect on his ideas with a few hesitations and questions. On page 782, Krutilla writes of Davidson, Adams, and Seneca’s piece in which they deduce an increase in facilities available for recreational activities in natural environments leads to an abundance of participation and enjoyment of such activities. Such participation and enjoyment are believed, by Davidson, Adams and Seneca, to stimulate future demand of facilities. Krutilla was quick to take this course of thought as word and form his own arguments on conserved spaces around it. At the state the world is in today, I just don’t know if I agree with the concept of an increase in facilities for recreational activities stimulating future demand. Chronic obesity plagues society, and I don’t thing demand for recreational activities in natural environments even slightly budges with fluctuating amounts of facilities available. While Krutilla accepted Davidson, Adams, and Seneca’s findings back in the late 60s, I feel that such propositions about future demand stimulations for natural environment facilities dedicated to recreational activities have become outdated.

In another sense, say an increase in facilities were to stimulate future demand. I am just not sure how likely it is that an increase in facilities will even occur in the near future. The attainability of Krutilla’s solutions seems incredible clouded by the current US political administration’s policies. Trump’s attack on National Parks and monuments is enough in itself to lead me to believe that the US is not quite ready to adhere to Krutilla’s suggestions on conservation of natural environments and spaces.

Lucas Roberton

I found Krutilla's paper brings up the recurring theme we have seen in this class so far of the struggle of putting a value on the environment and our natural resources. Krutilla many of the possible considerations for what we would give value to, but even so, he is rather vague on how we could go about doing this. His example of how we need the environment to continue doing research and how many plants have medicinal value. However, he concludes this section by saying, "for this purpose is a matter of considerable importance." This is a rather passive statement when one realizes that he is discussing possible advances in medicine, which could lead to the conversation of the ethics of this. If, as Krutilla says, the environment has the medicinal potential, then this could lead to an improvement in quality of human life. This leads to the question of: what could be valued higher than human life? This goes to show the difficulty of putting value on the environment, although I felt that the article never direly addressed the complexities behind it.
Another interesting part of this article was the learning-by-doing concept that could lead to externalities. I found this very interesting as I had not previously considered the impacts on people who may in the future want to use the natural environment for recreation and how destroying the environment now puts the cost onto the future generations from even just a recreational standpoint.

Natalie Burden

One of the arguments that caught my attention in Krutilla’s 1967 essay was the discussion of demand for outdoor recreation. It was interesting to think about how introducing people to activities such as hiking and canoeing that require and build an appreciation for natural resources could, in an idealized world (or in 1967 when the world was not so dominated by technology as to the degree that it is today), be a method for creating an environmentally conservative sentiment in future generations. This would increase the demand for nature conservancy. This caught my attention because I do believe that this method has merit to an extent, but it was also defeating to think about the other side; if exposure to outdoor activities increases the demand for the conservation of natural phenomena, then, by the same argument, increased exposure of the public to activities that deplete natural resources (which has undoubtedly occurred since 1967) makes it increasingly less likely for the public to give up such activities.
If I understand correctly, Krutilla argued that because supply of natural amenities is essentially fixed, as they become scarcer over time, their marginal value will increase. If he means to say that people will, on their own accord, start to value natural amenities over manufactured amenities, then I’d say we are either (1) not doing anything about it or (2) have not reached the level of scarcity at which that shift occurs. If we have not yet reached the point that humans value natural amenities over manufactured ones, then I think we will only reach that point after much of the damage and depletion is irreversible or unfixable –– a point that is supposedly not too far in the future, as we discussed in Professor Greer’s Global Climate Change class. So, although Krutilla’s argument of increasing demand for natural resources through outdoor activities is reasonable to a degree (and may have worked better if it had been put into effect better earlier on), it does not involve explicit intervention, which at this point is necessary.

Steven Black

The Krutilla paper elaborates further on several concepts that we have discussed throughout the past couple of weeks, such as the divergence of private and social benefits/costs, market inefficiencies due to this divulgence, and difficulties associated with intertemporal decision making. Krutilla also mentions a few new things that I found rather interesting. One is the evolution of conservation from purely conserving natural resources to avoid depleting our stocks to the current issue of degrading air, water, and ecosystem quality. Another was the idea of tradeable options for environmental preservation. It would help to incorporate the scientific and sentimental value into the rents that a private landowner could earn off his property. This is not something that I have ever considered before, but it may be able to help close the divergence between private benefits and social costs, which would result in higher levels of ecosystem conservation. While there may be uncertainty around the best method for conservation, it seems rather clear that certain ecosystems need to be conserved for scientific purposes, as well as recreational and sentimental reasons.


Krutilla’s “Conservation Reconsidered” provides a critical reflection about the allocation and use of natural resources. He continues the discussion we’ve been having in class about the divergence of private and social costs (specifically in the context of the natural world). Although Krutilla acknowledges the role of advancing technology in helping solve the allocation issue, he claims it will never be able to completely replicate “natural phenomena” in the eye of the consumer. I found his examination of option demand—or a person’s willingness-to-pay for something that has no close substitutes—particularly convincing in regard to use of the natural resources. While he names some markets for preservation—such as the Natural Conservancy and WWF—he stresses that these kinds of markets are few and far between. Additionally, Krutilla extensively deliberates the formation of demand using the idea (from the work of Davidson, Adams, and Seneca) that present and future demand comes from the act of learning-by-doing. That present demand will incorporate itself in the utility of those in the future is—in my opinion—applicable to most things, even the life of a W&L student. Currently our student body has access to many outdoor recreational activities. The legacy of these outdoor recreational activities—one could argue—has been “passed down” through generations. But what if future W&L students could not have access to these activities? Wouldn’t that pose as a risk to the utility of these generations because of the demand established by previous generations?

I was also intrigued by Krutilla’s comments about the role of technology. Multiple times he addresses the improbability of technology creating “perfect” substitutes for natural wonders. However I was curious to see, considering this article was published 53 years ago, how far we’ve come in creating any successful “substitutions” for natural phenomena. I was disappointed to find there has not been as much success as I expected. One article I found (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/01/190116111011.htm) discussed the advancement of new technologies for artificial photosynthesis. Although technologically successful, the process is still extremely costly and there is a lot room for improvement. Overall, there is still an alarming amount to be done to help minimize the costs of these processes.

Sydney Goldstein

Krutilla opens with the idea of scarcity and how economists constantly obsess over the idea. He asserts that the rate of consumption of natural resources during WWII caused increased scarcity and thus the decline in the price of natural resources to holt post war. Modern day, consumption of natural resources continues grow partially due to a growth in population, but can also be attributed to other factors such as growth in industry and income gains. In 2030, for instance, it is predicted that three-fourths of Chinese households will have a disposable income over 10,000USD compared to 40% in 2010. This means that there are more middle class households are buying consumer goods that increase demand for metals, energy, and water. Krutilla in his paper poses the question of how fast we should use up the remaining resources, because despite technological advances that compensate for depletion in certain cases (for example, silicon is replacing copper in many instances), there are resources that haven’t found an adequate replacement either due to lack of technological development, price of replacement in comparison to resource, or other factors. Krutilla addresses the problem of rapid consumption of natural resources through proposing a balance between conservation and continued economic production. He addresses the nuance that although complete halting of of production might be best for the environment it would cause a decrease in economic productivity that would have a detrimental cost to society at large. Thus he emphasizes the importance of the conservation of regions that have been left unscathed. He then considers the market for options and lists why the government should exercise options on larger tracts of land and water to account for future generations that might have a higher appreciation for wilderness. Krutilla’s viewpoint is revolutionary in that he anticipated accounting for technical changes and future value (discount rate) when many economists were not recognizing these factors in their analysis of the societal benefit of natural resources. In 1967, Krutilla explained that there was an increasing demand for outdoor activities specifically citing car camping and canoeing. According to the National Park Service current day demand for outdoor recreation is still increasing with there being more than 1.44 billion recreation hours in 2017. This is 19 million more hours spent in park than in 2016. Furthermore, 16% of national parks that report statistics had a record number of visitors in 2017. These statistics further Krutilla’s assertion that the environment is an irreplaceable asset of appreciating value. The question now becomes how to measure that value since information is asymmetric. With the subsequent question, once a value is assigned, is how to reach the appropriate balance of economic productivity and conservation of the environment. This is especially relevant in contemporary politics as Trump had made an executive order to review national monuments and parks. This was done to open public lands to the energy industry (streamlining oil and gas permits). Since then many regulations have seen rollbacks and protections have been revoked. This policy is an interesting contrast to the statistics that show that people are enjoying the outdoors with increasing numbers,. Despite showing that individuals and even masses enjoy the outdoors, they can be helpless to influence policy. In order to make a change to achieve the right balance, those that hold political power must be pressured into achieving the societally beneficial outcome rather than what benefits corporations who currently appear to be in control of policy.

Data Regarding China: https://blog.euromonitor.com/what-drives-demand-natural-resources/

Park data: https://www.nps.gov/orgs/1207/02-28-2018-visitation-certified.htm

Matt Condon

After reading this article, I believe that everyone who has some basic level of economics should be required to read it as well. I think Krutilla’s writings do an excellent job of outlining the problems that we are facing today with the perfect balance of specificity on the issues without using too much scientific or economic jargon in a mere eleven pages. One particular portion of the paper that I found especially crucial was the part in which Krutilla outlines why a private market has not developed and may not develop for the preservation of the environment and natural resources even if it does create the greatest amount of social benefit. It is too easy to pass off the private market development excuse for the lack of action to prevent further environmental degradation because it has the façade of economic support through distorted view of Adam Smith’s invisible hand idea. However, sticking to this idea that no government intervention whatsoever will solve all of our problems is lazy economics, and Krutilla revealed that this is no new discovery by showing that a presidential commission sixty-five years ago knew our natural resources would deplete without any intervention. Upon reading this, followed by our discussion from class that even many pro-free market economists support intervention, I was reminded of an interview I saw of Milton Friedman several years ago. I did some further research into this, and I discovered that Milton Friedman, the poster child for free market Laissez-faire economics, supported a tax on carbon in an interview in 1979. While many of the other evaluations that he makes on the overall status of climate change would be hotly contested by most today, it is incredible that no government-involved solutions today can get passed when one of the most anti-government intervention economists in recent history supported government intervention in the form of a carbon tax.

Here's the link to the Friedman interview if anybody is interested: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0YGfwSvLkC0

Jacob Thompson

One aspect of this essay that I found interesting was the importance placed on space for recreational activity in the future. Krutilla concluded the piece by emphasizing the need to reserve various different types of land in order to save areas for future recreational activities while only acknowledging the biological consequences and not the environmental ones. Personally, I disagreed with this idea, as I interpreted it as basically setting aside land to destroy in the future, basically putting the problem off for a few years. Why not set aside the land for permanent preservation rather than just a resource to help construct future locations of recreational activity? In this aspect, I feel humanity needs to be willing to sacrifice certain aspects of recreation in order to move closer to improving the environment as a whole. Another idea of Krutilla that struck me was his claim that advances in technology will compensate the lack of minerals in the future. While this may be true in the future, it’s a reality that we have right now yet refuse to take action towards. Solar and wind power have been proven to be efficient sources of energy, yet nobody wants to make the switch because it would be too expensive. I feel that a carbon tax would really help to incentive this change, as many businesses would then be encouraged to cut their carbon emissions and switch to alternative, more ecofriendly sources of energy instead.

Noah Gallagher

Kurtilla's argument strikes at an important conflict: "If the use which promises the highest net value is incompatible with preserving the environment in it's natural state, does it necessarily follow that the market will allocate resources efficiently?" How do we determine the impact private industry or development on our public lands? This is an especially difficult question in my hometown of Grand Junction, Colorado, which is within minutes of public land (over seventy percent of the county belongs either to the US Forest Service or the BLM, which just moved its headquarters to my town). The use of this land is always difficult to decide: should it belong to our national monuments and parts, to bikers and other tourist-attracting activities, or should it go to private real estate and oil/gas development? These are not easy questions to weigh, as the short term benefits often come into conflict with the long term benefits of preservation. Kurtilla certainly does well in articulating that the value of these lands will only appreciate with time: it's a limited good that has no clear alternative, while there are other ways to generate energy and tourism. Nonetheless, this must be considered against the jobs and standard of living that could be created.

Another predictable debate that arises with national parks and monuments is how to reduce the capacity to a maintainable amount. The number of people traveling west to visit has drastically risen, and the current capacity of the parks needs to have a cap, assuming we are seeking to keep the parks in pristine condition. The current system is a system of small fees (10-15 bucks to enter) and "free days". This allows all people to come on some days, and uses the remainder to pay to maintain the parks. Does this make it more difficult for these parks to be truly "public"? Yes, to some extent, but it also preserves the long term viability of the land.


Mikki Whittington

In reading this article, I began to think of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge because it is the focus of one of the environmental studies capstones this year. Currently, the Trump administration is pushing forward with plans to begin oil drilling in the ANWR which will disrupt the migration and calving of the porcupine caribou, deleteriously affecting the native Gwich’in community. This article brings the situation in the ANWR to mind becuase the article outlines how we must begin to assign relative value to the preservation of natural landscapes. Seismic testing and drilling would irreversibly alter the landscape and would significantly affect the life cycles of many of the species in the refuge. We also see, as is pointed out in the article, that there would be irreversible consequences to the welfare of the native Gwich’in community because they rely heavily on the migrating caribou as a source of food. There is clearly an option demand for the preservation of the ANWR: those who currently utilize the natural landscape have high demand for its preservation, and many of those who may never see the refuge likely value its existence. Yet despite this pristine and unique natural landscape, plans are still moving forward to destroy the space for oil acquisition. However, the value of the oil that could be acquired from this area is seemingly low, especially in comparison to both the value of the preserved refuge and the value of other potential oil drilling locations.

So in my brain, I seriously wonder why it is that whether to drill in the region is even up for debate. Both economic and moral evidence has been provided for preserving this natural refuge, so why does this information not translate to our policy makers and politicians?

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