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Ram Raval
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Personally, I feel as though Professor Greer's talk did an excellent job at explaining a complicated, controversial issue with intricate data in an objective, simple manner. As Megan already pointed out above, Greer quickly and thoroughly dismisses the common misconception that climate change should be ignored since climate changes regularly; instead, Greer conveys that while change is indeed the norm, the change has previously followed a pattern that can easily be explained by analysis of an interaction between insolation, ice, and carbon dioxide levels, and deviation from this pattern indicates an interruption in the natural cycle. In my opinion, the biggest strength of Greer's talk is that she provided several different means of evidence that supported every major assumption she made. For example, she used proxy measures of climate based on tree rings, sediment deposition, and ice cores as different sets of data that support the pattern of climate she presented. Finally, I think that Greer's talk was also strong in its use of shocking statistics, such as the fact that Earth should have reached peak warmth 6000 years ago and that Earth currently has an unprecedented concentration of 396 ppm of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The statistics Greer used truly did a remarkable job at raising a sense of urgency and concern within me, and I think this technique could, hopefully, be useful in inciting these same emotions in others. All in all, Greer's talk was an excellently simple, scientific, objective, and thorough introduction to the issue of climate change, and it undoubtedly spurred concern and interest within me in regards to the issue as well. In regards to class discussion, I would like to discuss a point that Greer made towards the end of her talk that I was not expecting: Greer argues that "the world will not explode" due to climate change; therefore, our efforts to stop climate change are done with an anthropocentric mindset aimed at helping humanity survive. This was a point that I had never truly considered- I have always been concerned for the impact climate change has on humans by means such as sea level rise, but I had always envisioned a greater impact on the Earth as a whole as a main reason behind the movement to stop global climate change. For this reason, I believe it would be interesting to discuss the extent to which Earth itself would be harmed in response to continued greenhouse emissions and to analyze its recovery from different concentration levels of carbon, as Greer began to do with her models of ocean currents in reaction to greenhouse gas concentration. Additionally, it would be interesting to discuss the potential costs and benefits associated with focusing our perception of global climate change on a purely anthropocentric perspective, as this would raise concern but could simultaneously lead to environmental damage in the process of creating solutions for climate change. Finally, one thing I did not fully understand from the lecture was how patterns of sedimentation in the ocean can provide reliable climate data. While Professor Greer briefly attempts to explain it, I would be more comfortable if we explored the mechanics of the sampling technique a little further in class.
Toggle Commented Mar 24, 2015 on Climate Talk at Jolly Green General
For Thursday's class, I believe it would be most interesting to study the different fee structures associated with timbering activities and examine the consequences that each structure has on deforestation. Although differentiated volume-based fees are undoubtedly the most environmentally sustainable, it would be interesting to explore area-based, uniform revenue-based, and undifferentiated volume-based approaches and see the varying feasibility of each method. In addition, it would be interesting to discuss whether or not differentiated volume-based fees are sufficient in implementing sustainable forestry and to examine the potential shortcomings of instituting this approach alone. It would also be interesting to discuss different lease systems and how political reform in regards to securing property rights can help sustainable use of forests. Finally, it would also be interesting to discuss command and control and economic incentive methods in order to encourage sustainable timbering techniques and to relate the potential harm to native populations caused by these methods to the study on Marine Protected Areas and their impact on local villages.
Toggle Commented Mar 11, 2015 on For Thursday at Jolly Green General
To begin, I believe that the very purpose of this article is admirable in itself. Indeed, as the article stated, there is very little research that exists in exploring the impacts of conservation techniques on the livelihoods of rural populations. While it is easy to dismiss the consequences on rural populations by citing incentivisation through introduction of alternative methods for livelihood and supplying of new technologies, it is admirable that this article performs actual involved research to determine the real impact on rural societies impacted by Marine Protected Areas. Along with the premise of the article itself, I also thought it was very interesting that the article included the probability of being caught as a factor in whether or not individuals followed fishing restrictions. Additionally, prior to reading the article, I was unaware that fishing was allowed in Marine Protected Areas given that restrictions on technology and other aspects are followed. Finally, I thought that the article was well-done in that it acknowledged the differences between the effects of the policies introduced on fishing villages, agricultural villages, and mixed villages. In this respect, the article went through satisfactorily thorough measures in determining the impact of the policies researched. In regards to critiques of the article, I agree with Matthew in that it is a little odd that the article seems to place a great burden onto the local populations that do not seem to be the main contributors to the problems of overfishing and marine habitat degradation; nevertheless, I think it is also important to note that the article’s purpose is to examine the impact of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) on local populations. As a result, to my knowledge, it seems as though the MPAs are meant to prevent harm done by large-scale fisheries, but in doing so, they inadvertently harm local, small-scale fishing operations. While this is my understanding of the article, I also do not know what large-scale fisheries are operating in southern Tanzania. Apart from this, I also found room for improvement in that the new “technology” provided to the villages hurts the fishing capabilities of the villages, which leads them to consider the opportunity cost of utilizing these technologies versus being fined for illegal fishing. Ideally, it would be much more effective for both marine preservation and the livelihood of the villages to craft new technologies that are both friendlier towards the marine environment and more effective in yielding useful catch. In my opinion, technology that does not have negative consequences on villagers would be the only way to provide effective progress. Secondly, the implementation of bee-keeping and fishponds as alternative sources of livelihood seem to be overly simplistic in remedying the phasing out of fishing in villages. Fishing, whether it is the main source of income for the village or not, has been a mode of living for centuries, and there is something to be said for this. Fishing has been done for a reason because it is an effective means of living, so it seems fairly reckless to simply change an established way of life so suddenly. Also, the options of bee-keeping and fish ponds proposed do not seem like sustainable industries that can adequately replace fishing. In my opinion, this alternative livelihoods approach could be improved by researching further and finding better alternatives. With all of this being said, though, the article does a great job in thoroughly exploring a rarely considered topic.
Toggle Commented Feb 11, 2015 on Reading for Thursday at Jolly Green General
Personally, I found this journal article fascinating simply due to its premise. When thinking about coral reefs, one typically views them as valuable in terms of the ecosystem of oceans; however, I would not have considered their value in terms of scuba diving revenue, especially in locations in which this revenue is a key component of the area's economy. Perhaps the most surprising part of the background research of the article was the projections for the losses incurred by reef degradation. While it is certain that large economic effects occur, I was unaware of the magnitude, and I would be curious to read the studies which aim to monetize harm to reef-associated fisheries and sand production. In regards to the potential biases brought up by Matt and others due to the limited, wealthy sample, I am torn. On one hand, I acknowledge that these divers are much more willing to spend larger amounts of money for better quality diving. In this regard, it would be helpful to replicate the study in a more accessible diving location with a less wealthy sample. At the same time, though, diving is inherently a rather expensive hobby, and those who engage in it are likely to be wealthy regardless. Due to this, I do not think it would the bias is too significant. In response to those criticizing the article's neglect for valuation of the reefs to local islanders, I do believe that such a valuation ought to be done, but I also argue that such effects were not the primary goal of this study. While the preferences are different for different individuals, the preferences themselves are not the focus of the study; instead, the preferences are only found in order to value different aspects of the reef ecosystem. A compilation of these preferences from different demographic groups would provide an adequate valuation of the reef ecosystem. Another aspect of the study I found interesting was the amount of value placed on the mere sighting of a sea-turtle. I think that this is a valuable finding of the study in regards to sea turtle conservation. All in all, I found that the methods used in this study to provide valuation of non-marketable goods were creative and as accurate as the methodology can get. It is always interesting to consider how closely this methodology does reflect reality, but finding this information out is nearly impossible. Regardless, it is a great step in influencing policy in hopes of effecting change.
Toggle Commented Jan 28, 2015 on Reading for Thursday at Jolly Green General
There are several things I found interesting about both Garrett Hardin's "The Tragedy of the Commons" and the comments posted by others in reaction. First, I was intrigued by Hardin's implementation of Adam Smith's work into his argument, as he appears to fall into the category of individuals who, as we discussed a few classes ago, seem to hold an overly reductive understanding of Smith's work. Indeed, it appears as though Hardin only understands Smith's work to advocate for the eventual public good formed by the self-promoting actions of individuals. In using this assumption to attempt to explain why laissez-faire policies now govern our reproductive behavior, Hardin neglects the basic fact that Smith's work referenced specifically markets. The "invisible hand" appears to promote public good because the self-promoting actions of two or more parties work together to create a favorable outcome for both in economic theory. When dealing with population growth, there is no such interaction between multiple parties. Additionally, it seems doubtful that individuals even consider the effect that the number of children they have will have on the rest of the world. Hardin's analysis assumes that an individual recognizes this negative impact on the rest of the world and values the positive impact on their own lives above the negative consequence. Also, in my opinion, society follows laissez-faire in regards to reproduction more so because of a reluctance to regulate rights to one's body rather than due to a firm belief in the workings of the "invisible hand." Also, Hardin's article reminded me of Malthusian concepts discussed in my Macroeconomics course. While income per capita was once constant due to limited resources available, the Industrial Revolution changed this trend and led to a sharp increase in income per capita in some nations and a sharp decrease in others. In my opinion, this change brought upon by the Industrial Revolution also caused the dramatically rising population growth that is present today, for societies have learned to no longer be limited by natural resources. This brings me to my next point. I thought it was extremely interesting that Nina focused her response on the oddness of Hardin's proposal to reject the Universal Declaration of Human Rights due to the fact that for some reason, I did not consider this during my reading. In fact, when I read the article, I was so interested in the theory of the tragedy of the commons that I simply followed through with Hardin's logic without considering the implications of his proposal. I found the argument interesting primarily because of the fact that while it, in my opinion, fails to provide an adequate explanation behind the failures of population control, it does explain relatively well the fact that we continue to engage in actions that harm the environment. While we are aware that polluting, driving fuel inefficient vehicles, using excessive water, etc. are examples of harmful behavior, we continue to do so because the private benefits are more appealing than the social costs. In this sense, I truly enjoyed this article due to the fact that it seemed to provide a psychological and behavioral economics-like approach towards the issues that will be discussed in this course. The "tragedy of the commons" is in a sense similar to the psychological topic of diffusion of responsibility. This lack of responsibility we tend to take appears to thus be a trend in human nature, and it would be interesting to research what methods could potentially be effective in increasing the assumption of responsibility. Moral suasion, economic incentives, and command and control measures appear to force this assumption of responsibility, but the psychological phenomenon still exists.
Toggle Commented Jan 21, 2015 on Readings for Thursday at Jolly Green General
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Jan 20, 2015