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Bess Ruff
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This paper focuses on the major benefits, beneficiaries, and economic values attributed to the Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes Marine Reserve. The article focuses on four main groups for its survey work: visitors to the reserve, non-visitors that just travel in the area of the reserve, local community residents, and Belizean fishers. Each individual group formed its own study, however, the monetary results of the visitor and non-visitor groups were combined to come up with an aggregate value for fee increases. The approach of this paper is interesting considering the way they set up their contingent valuation framework for the first two groups. This study asked how much extra money visitors and non-visitors would be willing to pay in the context of an entrance fee. This is an interest contrast to our approach to contingent valuation. Their data will obviously have more observations but I imagine the aggregate values are a bit skewed due to the difference in preferences between the visitors and non-visitors. Additionally, their WTP assessment is based on an entrance fee while ours is adding cost to an optional trip. There results will be significantly different than ours since an entrance fee would be mandatory, and therefore, any visitors to Belize would have to pay it, whereas with our proposed scenario, individuals could substitute their whale shark tours with some other excursion. The varying dynamics of this paper and our surveys shows how flexible contingent valuation can be in terms of valuing natural resources. Also, abstractly comparing the results of both surveys could reveal insight into emotions and preferences associated with different allocations of higher fees.
Toggle Commented Apr 25, 2013 on Un Belizeable!!!! at Jolly Green General
In reference to Kate's question about the economic valuation of replanting corals, I would consider the ecosystem services paper we read for class on Wednesday. I'm curious as to whether an economic valuation of such a project would be able to accurately discount the impacts of a restored ecosystem or if the evaluation would merely calculate the original value of the ecosystem. I'm not sure how trustworthy this information would be given the long-term incapability of restored ecosystems to provide the same set of goods and services as the original. I don't know the answer, but maybe there would be some way to control for this discrepancy? As is the case with much of the literature that we are encountering, information and communication are emphasized as necessary to developing a sustainable approach to financing and management. Although I understand it is a necessary process, I don't see a clear level of "informedness" upon which governments will finally say, "Alright, it's clear what we need to do now." The science of economic and contingent valuation is continuously evolving and the frameworks change frequently. At what point does the information we have RIGHT NOW become become sufficient enough to be utilized in real-life applications?
Toggle Commented Apr 25, 2013 on Un Belizeable!!!! at Jolly Green General
Whale-shark Ecotourism I think Holley is spot on in considering how income would impact an individual's willingness to pay and create such a large discrepancy between the lower and upper bounds of the survey. The Australia example supports the inclusion of the question about income on our surveys. Additionally, this paper points to a sense of ownership among the community as being a driving factor for ecotourism. When I asked the question about ownership in class today, I was wondering whether the emotional associations to a public good are a double-edged sword. Some people might feel greater emotions towards a public good because they feel that everyone should get a chance to enjoy it; or some people will look at the resource as something that doesn't belong to them and therefore they don't see its removal as directly detrimental to them. The approaches taken by the MCSS initiative show that even though a resource is a public good, a sense of ownership can still be established among community members. This sense of responsibility can provide invaluable resources in terms of gathering data, promoting ecotourism, training local workers, etc.
Trade-offs between conservation and socio-economic objectives in managing a tropical marine ecosystem The central conservation of trade offs is presented starkly in this paper which focuses on the specific northern South China Sea region for its data. Even in the first two days of class, we've discussed trade-offs between conservation and socio-economic objectives. We like to believe that the people that are put out of work by fishing limitations can just become tour guides, but as we've learned, this is not necessarily the case. This paper presents the same dilemma while discussing the policy of fishing vessel/license buy-back. The intent is to restructure the fishing fleets of this region in order to achieve a Pareto-optimum outcome. The paper also refers to Malthusian overfishing as a force against conservation and suggests that training and assistance programs should be established to help former fishermen re-enter the work force. This is an imperative step for long-term conservation success because it provides economic incentives for people to change their behavior. The establishment of such programs would have a substantial upfront cost, and the return on investment might take a few years, but long-term this is a logical first-step in altering the cultural practices that pose a threat to natural resources.
Toggle Commented Apr 24, 2013 on Three more for Wednesday at Jolly Green General
Ecosystem services of the tropical seascape: interactions, substitutions and restoration The use of human substitutions and restoration methods discussed in this article provides an interesting insight into conservation decision making. The paper provides multiple examples of substitution and restoration attempts in the context of mangroves, sea grass beds, and coral reefs, and it's pretty clear that most of the efforts have fallen short. An especially striking statement made by this paper is the idea that simply putting something back, e.g. a mangrove population, does not necessarily mean the ecosystem is restored. I had not yet considered that linkages were an integral aspect of the substitution and restoration processes. With this in mind, technological substitutions and man-made restoration might be able to solve a short-term problem, but it will come at a high cost and long-term failure. This literature provides new insight into how we should approach conservation and highlights that the mere reestablishment of an ecosystem does not guarantee resiliency. While the technology to fully substitute or restore ecosystems might lie somewhere in the future, trusting that to be a viable solution is folly and an overconfidence in the human ability to manipulate nature. Substitution and restoration could potentially be used as a short-term solution to facilitate the regeneration of the natural ecosystem, but what success would there be in completely depleted areas?
Toggle Commented Apr 23, 2013 on Three more for Wednesday at Jolly Green General
The willingness to pay–willingness to accept gap revisited: The role of emotions and moral satisfaction This article explores the discrepancy between WTA and WTP experiments, specifically with respect to moral perceptions and emotions. I was particularly intrigued by the idea of omission vs. commission. The paper explains that people tend to view acts of omission as less blameworthy than acts of commission. It goes on to explain that WTP is viewed as an act of omission because an individual can refrain from paying whereas WTA is an act of commission because the individual chooses to accept some form of payment. The results of this experiment show that individuals given a WTA option are more likely to donate to the WWF than those given the WTP choice. With these results in mind, I'm curious as to whether there is not framing bias in this experiment. WTA participants were given the option to keep the money or donate, but, according to the paper, there wasn't a stated amount that these individuals had to give. A WTP participant had to choose between keeping all of the money and giving 100SEK to the WWF. I imagine that if the WTP group was given a scale on which they could donate that their percentages for donating to the WWF would be larger. Since the WTA group was not given a set amount by which if they committed to donating they had to give, it gives them greater option in giving, perhaps a lesser amount than 100SEK. The experiment's examination of emotions associated with given in the context of the WTA and WTP groups, however, is very telling of the role of moral perception in donations, specifically towards the preservation of public goods.
Toggle Commented Apr 23, 2013 on Three more for Wednesday at Jolly Green General
Practitioner's Primer First of all: WOOF. I don't think I fully realized the extent of the variables that make up a survey until reading this. As a creative writing minor, I've learned that altering just one word can completely alter the meaning of a sentence or the creation of an image, so I understand Whitehead's caution and intense detailing on how to properly structure a survey question. Still, it seems that there is still a vast amount of grey area when surveying that even the most refined and tested questions cannot completely eliminate. In terms of this class, I think it'll be quite interesting once we get to Belize to see how people react to the phrasing and structuring of our survey. Something as minor as the tone of our voice when we present the surveys could impact the way people respond. There are so many variables involved in survey work from how the questions are phrased to how they are administered that there's no way to develop a fool-proof questionnaire. As Corinne mentioned, I think bias will play a role in our administration of the surveys, and I'm interested to see if there other ways (other than control variables) to minimize any biases we may encounter. Ecosystem Goods and Services As Joe stated, the concepts covered in the first two sections of Schuhmann's paper echo the material we covered in Kahn's Coastal Policy class last semester. I would like to challenge Joe's statement that we need to correct for the possibility that the surveys are a reflection of overall happiness and not a proper valuation of resources. As I mentioned above, there might not be a need to correct for this if there is a neurological association with oceans. According to Wallace J. Nicholls we can potentially begin to hardwire our brains to make conservation of coral reef systems an intrinsic value. Understandably, this development would take a bit of time, a generation or more. However, in the mean time, I think that people are taking the economic value of a place, whether consciously or not, into consideration when they state their WTP. The moral and monetary values of a place would probably be conflated to some extent.
As mentioned above, the topic of protest bids provides an intriguing discussion as to how these surveys are conducted. While it seems that the apprehensions of the tourists could be alleviated with a short explanation by the surveyor, where is the line drawn between dictating too much information to the surveyee and letting him/her come to his/her own conclusion? I feel that too much explaining removes a bit of the reality from the results and doesn't accurately convey the typical tourist's sentiments towards a conservation fee. Obviously, there are some elements of the survey that need to be explained in order to minimize hypothetical bias and the "warm glow" feeling, but I think enough needs to be left unsaid in order to preserve a genuine response from the surveyee. Other than the protest bids, I was intrigued by the statement from the Kahneman and Knetsch (1992) paper labeling contingent valuation experiments as a means of measuring the WTP for moral satisfaction instead of a tool in assigning monetary value. I might have misinterpreted it, but it seems that this characteristic of CV is portrayed as a negative. However, in the context of Jeff Greenwald's "This Is Your Brain on the Ocean", this quality seems rather important, and potentially more valuable than monetary valuation. The article presents the concept that the ocean has neurological impact on the human brain. With this in mind, it would seem to me that even if the CV experiments are only a measure of WTP for moral satisfaction, that those numbers could potentially be higher than the monetary value of a natural resource.
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Apr 22, 2013