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Joe Moravec
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I agree completely with Bailey’s point about local involvement in WTP formulations and valuation research. Much of the research is focused on tourist’s willingness to pay for conservation so that they can benefit from the recreation. However, I wonder what the WTP is for locals to keep tourists out of the area, given that they could have a sustainable alternative source of income. My guess is that locals in Belize don’t like seeing a great abundance of tourists on their beaches any more than Holly likes them at Virginia Beach. This means we need to take local wishes into consideration, and as Professor Casey mentioned in class (and was the case with Seychelles), this seems to be the research best practice in sustainable tourism. It is interesting that the Hargreaves-Allen paper (Economic value of Gladden Spit…) did account for the value of MPAs to locals, both as fishermen (use-value), but also for their own recreation and intrinsic valuation, as well as deriving financial benefits from tourist use. This comprehensive valuation seems to get us towards a better figure for fully assessing the value of the marine resources. The higher the value, the greater incentive to conserve and sustainably manage the resource, so this can only be a good thing for us. This is quantified in Table 1., which seems to indicate that locals value the marine protected areas even more than tourists.
Toggle Commented Apr 26, 2013 on Un Belizeable!!!! at Jolly Green General
I do agree that income may be a key variable in understanding the large range in WTP. However, like Kate mentioned, there are decreasing marginal returns. While I may be willing to pay $900 to see whale sharks today, I may only be then willing to pay $100 tomorrow, and after seeing them two or three days, not willing to pay very much at all. The stated range seems inconclusive without correcting for other variables. This is exactly why we discussed changing our survey to include the "last time you saw a whale shark?" question. We need to know where on the margin each person is willing to stop paying to see another whale shark. I am interested in how the program/policy was actually created, and I hope that while in Belize we are able to see the practical side of our research. From the outset, the local community seems to buy into (with a little education about sharks) the idea that sustainable development of an eco-tourism industry is the best option. The Seychelles seems to have gotten it right on this one, as the sharks are protected and not over-exploited, the community retains the benefits, the local dive centers gained income, and my guess is this all created additional jobs in the long run to replace any losses for fishermen. As Casey said in class today, Belize seems to be one of the best places to find the government and people committed to conservation on a national level. This can only be maintained through community involvement similar to the program in Seychelles.
Sorry, it didn't post my whole statement, just the last paragraph. Also wanted to make sure I add that given previous comments about the lack of research and funding for it being a key factor in policy-makers "slowness" on environmental policy, we need to reexamine this notion. Policy-makers and institutions have the resources to conduct this research if they felt it necessary (the EPA, UNEP, and NOAA have very large budgets and all have economists). The fact is, following the Exxon Valdez spill, much was done to discredit CV methodologies and since then there has been great effort to reestablish CV as an accurate measure of economic values. However, as a politics major, I am always skeptical of corporate influence. As long as the research indicates that protecting the environment will have trade-offs (as we discussed in today's class), and this may be in the form of economic productivity, there will be companies which pay to prevent this. There might be then another explanation as to the lack of research. Other industries don't want that research done. Say for instance, I own 50km of coastline and I convert it to aquaculture, I will certainly be concerned when policy-makers call for more informed research on protecting mangrove forests. So, because I have significant economic and political pressure to bear, I press local politicians to stifle the research, or to keep it from influencing decisions. It may be a cynical perspective, but this happens more than we would like to think.
Toggle Commented Apr 25, 2013 on testing at Jolly Green General
I find that this disconnect between science/social science and policy-makers is not necessarily over the lack of research, but a general distrust of the research from the beginning. As we discussed in class today, Policy-makers don't like to consider trade-offs (particularly when it comes to jobs), and they certainly don't like have to sift through complicated economics literature on non-market valuations. Rather I think policy-makers most likely want a solid data set (no margin for error) and possible solutions in hand before really moving forward, and since this just isn't possible with current methods, the current research has been largely ignored.
Toggle Commented Apr 25, 2013 on testing at Jolly Green General
The introductory sections of Shuhmann's paper outline the key concepts we have spent the semester studying in ENV 295 Coastal Policy with Professor Kahn. The linkages between the ecosystem services listed in 1.1 and their values cannot be understated. Like many of the previous comments, I do agree that some explanation of at least the Support/Regulation services should incorporated into the questionnaire when in the field, as most do not understand the full extent of the services provided. It is possible then that most would be giving us a WTP value based on simply their happiness as a result of experiential recreation rather than a full valuation of the ecosystem services we are trying to protect. Is there a better way to correct for this? Do we then assume that, had our tourist participants known the full value of the ecosystem services AS WELL AS their personal recreational value, they would give a higher WTP? This may be one of the variables corrected for in Casey et al. Education would seem to have been a key factor in willingness to pay, at least theoretically, as the more we understand the tangible benefits of healthy ecosystems, the higher welfare we realize we have derived from them (and will continue to do so), and thus the more we would be willing to pay. I am more curious when reading the results from Mexico if there is a need to correct for perceived notions of government corruption in administering any hypothetical conservation agency. Obviously, if we believe that our money will be poorly managed, we are less willing to pay. As Kate and Bailey both pointed out, there needs to be some explanation to the participant of how the fee would be procured and exactly how it would be spent. I believe this explanation, or some econometric correction for feelings of perceived corruption, would remove at least a great number of the protest bids. As far as it relates to our survey in Belize, it seems that although corruption still exists in Belize, it is far less so than in other neighboring countries. Finally, on Whitehead’s methodology for conducting surveys, I am wondering how we will be correcting for a few of the errors he says we should look out for. First, he notes that although the valuation process is hypothetical, it must still be presented in a realistic manner. If we don’t have an explanation written into the survey of how the policy might look in practice, we should at least have some prepared explanation for when we are asked. I know if I were taking such a survey, I would ask about how realistic the policy might look and how important my “truthful” answers really are. If I knew that the responses mattered a great deal, I would have a greater incentive to be honest. I believe this is why Whitehead notes the in-person survey is the best (while not favored, as it is usually too expensive), simply because in person we can answer participant questions rather than needing to later correct for item non-response or ambiguity of answers. Also, how do we correct for selection bias during an in-person interview? If people simply walk away from us, there is no way to “send a follow-up” or ask them even initial demographic questions.
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Apr 22, 2013