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Megan Axelrod
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The lecture points out that climate is always changing but that it is: how it changes, how much it changes, why it changes, how fast it changes that we should care about. Essentially when politicians speak out against climate “change” they are misunderstanding the basis of our climate, change is the norm not the exception. She points to things like ice cap size and coral chemistry as markers of changes in climate history. Professor Greer demonstrates how despite the fact the world is supposed to be in a period of cooling it is actually in a period of heating. On Thursday I would be interested in discussing how climatologists can use their measurements to suggest ways that the supply curve for green house gases can be shifted to the left.
Toggle Commented Mar 22, 2015 on Climate Talk at Jolly Green General
For Thursday I would like to discuss the Endangered Species Act and whether or not it has been successful. I am particularly interested in Panda conservation efforts and how a lot of separate groups are emotionally invested in their conservation and are willing to spend large amounts of money and time to preserve them. In Kahn Chapter 14 he discusses Captive Breeding Programs as well as the Endangered Species Act. He points out that it doesn't do enough to stop species loss prior to the species becoming endangered. My question is, is there any way to align incentives with the public to ensure protection of potentially endangered species before they become endangered?
Toggle Commented Mar 11, 2015 on For Thursday at Jolly Green General
This article reminded me of lessons from economics we learned in the first week of class, that it is possible to conceive what should be done in theory but realistically it is much more difficult. The model methodology is an interesting start into determining how best to handle conservation efforts. The article made it clear that once the “desired Steady State Fish Stock” was found then it was possible to determine the appropriate level of livelihood projects; however, that is currently difficult to find. Without being able to discern that level it is impossible to find the appropriate level of enforcement versus livelihood project. This is a recurring theme in our readings where private citizens and environmental groups have differing views of optimal cost. Similar issues arose in Economics of Social Issues when we discussed ideal methods of reducing poverty. For example, different political parties have very different views on the ideal level of education intervention. Incentive alignment can go a long way in those scenarios to ease the transition and ensure interests are being protected.
Toggle Commented Feb 9, 2015 on Reading for Thursday at Jolly Green General
The article showcases a creative way to assign value to non market goods. The 165 divers surveyed demonstrated high willingness to pay for lower levels of site crowding along with higher levels of coral quality, fish species diversity and sightings of sea turtles. While tourists are an interesting way to value resources for this particular study the question becomes how might an ecologist’s answer on the survey differ from that of a diver? For example, sea turtle conservation has many implications for ecosystems far beyond what the divers enjoy from viewing a sea turtle. Diver satisfaction and health of marine life might be incompatible measures and it would be interesting to compare survey results from a different population source. Additionally as a politics major I am curious about the structure of government in Barbados. My experience with politics in America would suggest that politicians make decisions based on what will make their constituents happiest, and lead to the greatest odds of reelection. This preconceived notion could differ based on an alternate form of government. In America a significant amount of policy decisions are made off of what will best protect the economy. In Barbados, given the high level of GDP that the article attributes to healthy reefs it seems logical to conclude that policy makers should put a high premium on protecting the reefs.
Toggle Commented Jan 27, 2015 on Reading for Thursday at Jolly Green General
Hardin’s thesis is that the overpopulation problem is solvable, but requires that humans give up “the privileges they now enjoy”. Essentially, the population problem “cannot be solved in a technical way”. Hardin says that we must consider the world to have finite space, meaning eventually we will run out of room. The author doesn’t give a time frame; however, he implies that without a solution the world is heading into an age where population growth will have to equal zero. Hardin uses this conclusion to demonstrate that it is impossible to achieve “the greatest good for the greatest number” in this scenario. In this world maximizing the population leads to humans being required to live off of the bare minimum, and to minimize extraneous pleasure. He points out that the maximum good for each person varies. Life requires that people weigh pleasurable items and what items are necessary for survival. Hardin demonstrates that just because humans desire more of something the optimal level is not necessarily more. In fact, that is where the tragedy of the commons arises, when humans desire more profit and overuse natural resources. In the scenario he offers, the herdsman gains all of the benefit from adding additional animals and none of the cost from over grazing. The herdsman gains utility from grazing more animals and will disregard the common good. Essentially, men are selfish and will pursue their own personal interests. An additional problem that Hardin does not mention is that humans are not fond of temperance and politicians are elected by constituents who they rely on to keep their jobs. The author is skeptical about a supposed “right to breed”. Hardin suggests that because governments provide benefits to keep children from starving to death impoverished parents do not feel pressure to stop producing more children. There are long-term disadvantages to appealing to individual’s conscience to stop breeding. That means a smaller part of the adult population will be responsible for a larger percentage of the offspring. The double bind that occurs with the commons is something that also occurs in the game Prisoner’s Dilemma. Prisoners assume that since they don’t know what the other is doing that it is in their best interest to rat the other out, or in this case exploit the commons. Hardin advocates for coercion to keep people from breeding. The issues with this argument arise from past history. For example, the eugenics movement tried to stop the supposedly inferior parts of the population from reproducing. This particular incident demonstrates that when humans try to legislate other human’s ability to reproduce immorality can occur. A particular concern is that politics is commonly filled with affluent men, not necessarily the lower classes. As a result, legislation is more skewed towards protecting the upper classes. Subsequently, legislation can oppress whole groups of people. This is concerning given Harden’s hypothesis that the government needs to legislate against over breeding.
Toggle Commented Jan 20, 2015 on Readings for Thursday at Jolly Green General
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Jan 20, 2015