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Today’s Topics l The Tragedy of the Commons l Lifeboat Ethics l Population, Food and Hunger l Ecological Economics.

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Presentation on theme: "Today’s Topics l The Tragedy of the Commons l Lifeboat Ethics l Population, Food and Hunger l Ecological Economics."— Presentation transcript:

1 Today’s Topics l The Tragedy of the Commons l Lifeboat Ethics l Population, Food and Hunger l Ecological Economics

2 The Tragedy of the Commons l Garrett Hardin (population biologist) l Game theory and “technical solutions” l Some problems defy technical solutions l Population is one of them l The tragedy of the commons is another l The essence of tragedy is not unhappiness but the remorseless working of things

3 The Tragedy of the Commons l Private goods and public goods l Rational economic agents seek to maximize their own self interest l Self interest dictates that one over utilize a scarce public resource l But if everyone acts this way, the resource is destroyed.

4 Lifeboat Ethics l Population and resource management issues need a metaphor l The dominant metaphor is “spaceship earth” l Hardin thinks a lifeboat is a better metaphor l A lifeboat might not have a captain, is constantly at risk of swamping, has a clearly fixed carrying capacity, may require harsh measures l Survivor guilt l Lazarus’ poem.

5 Food, Population and Hunger l Carrying capacity issues and consumerism l The misleading present l Obscene inequality—the IMF and World Bank estimate that only 20% of the world’s population lives in abject poverty (less than $1/day) {that’s 1.2 billion people) l Is there a duty to aid those in need who we can help at small risk to ourselves?

6 Obligations to the Less Fortunate l Peter Singer (Princeton philosopher) provides 2 principles arguing in favor of a duty to aid the less fortunate l If it is within our power to prevent something bad from happening without sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance, we should l If it is within our power to prevent something bad from happening without sacrificing anything morally significant, we should

7 Ecological Economics l 1980 bet between Julian Simon (economist) and Paul Ehrlich l Ehrlich predicted cost increases for precious commodities, Simon said costs would fall. l Simon purchased $1,000 worth of five metals ($200 each) -- tin, tungsten, copper, nickel and chrome. l Ten years later, Ehrlich sent Simon a check for $ all five metals had fallen in price.

8 Malthus’ Postulates l First, That food is necessary to the existence of man. l Secondly, That the passion between the sexes is necessary and will remain nearly in its present state. l Population, when unchecked, increases in a geometrical ratio. Subsistence increases only in an arithmetical ratio.

9 Malthus’ Dire Conclusion Malthusian Catastrophe l The power of population, unchecked, is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man.

10 Malthus’ Fundamental Worry

11 Malthus’ Checks on Population l Positive checks (events that raise the mortality rate) –famine, disease, war, infanticide l Preventive checks (behaviors that lower the fertility rate) –delaying marriage, not marrying at all, delaying first child, birth control

12 Dire Malthusian That Predictions Failed to Materialize l Global famine l Human population crashes l Global pandemics l Resource wars

13 What Did Malthus Miss? l The green revolution l Elasticity of resource supply (e.g., oil) l Technological innovation producing lower costs or alternatives l Ways in which human populations do not behave like other animal populations l Elasticity of carrying capacity

14 Ecological Economics l 1980 bet between Julian Simon (economist) and Paul Ehrlich (population biologist) l Ehrlich predicted cost increases for precious commodities, Simon said costs would fall. l Simon purchased $1,000 worth of five metals ($200 each) -- tin, tungsten, copper, nickel and chrome. l Ten years later, Ehrlich sent Simon a check for $ all five metals had fallen in price.

15 How Was Malthus Right About The Big Picture? l Human population increases l Fundamental limits to increasing populations –Carrying capacity of a region –Ecological footprint of a population

16 Carrying Capacity l Carrying capacity is the number of individuals who can be supported in an area within natural resource limits, without degrading those natural resources for present and future generations. l No population can live beyond the environment's carrying capacity for very long. l SO, what is the earth’s carrying capacity for human beings—what is our largest sustainable population?

17 Ecological Footprint l The amount of productive land and water a population requires to satisfy consumption and absorb waste using prevailing technology (Onisto, 1998; Wackernagel & Rees, 1996) l Footprint size varies with consumption— the more you consume, the larger your footprint. l Carrying capacity is as much a function of the size of the feet as the number of heads

18 Resources available to 6 billion humans l Productive land and sea on Earth = 11.4 billion gha l Less 12% set aside (Bruntland Commission) to protect biodiversity= billion gha l = roughly 1.7 hectares per person l Current average global ecological footprint (1999) is 2.3 ha per person l Therefore… humanity already exceeds the sustainable carrying capacity of the Earth by 35% l At North American footprint averages, we would need 4.7 planets earth

19 Ecological Footprint by Country, 1999

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24 Global “Ecological Overshoot” is temporarily possible by: –depleting reserves of natural capital (e.g., natural gas, old growth forests); –over-harvesting renewable resources to the brink of collapse (e.g. fish stocks); –causing irreversible ecological damage (e.g., species extinction) –overloading environment with waste products (air & water pollution, GHGs - climate change, ozone depletion, etc.)

25 Netherlands’ Ecological Footprint Compared to Size

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27 Erlich and Simon Revisited l Ehrlich offered a second bet -- that 15 key environmental indicators would worsen between 1994 and that Simon refused. l Included were increases in global warming, CO 2, NO, SO 2, and ozone concentrations, AIDS deaths and the gap between rich and poor PLUS decreases in per capita food production, cropland, agricultural soil, rice production, biodiversity, and sperm counts

28 Part 2 l Ehrlich offered a second bet –that15 key environmental indicators would worsen between 1994 and that Simon refused. l Included were increases in global warming, CO 2 NO SO 2 ozone concentrations, AIDS deaths and the gap between rich and poor PLUS decreases in per capita food production, cropland, agricultural soil, rice production, biodiversity, and sperm counts


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