Sunday, December 19, 2010

Who we Need Fixing the Environment

CBC radio was broadcasting a special about killer whales this morning, specifically how they are currently being studied by their feces so researchers have to keep a dog on board to sniff out the poop in the water (apparently it floats for about 45 minutes) so they can evaluate its contents. The results of their study are depressing however, since it seems that this particular species of Killer Whale is dwindling because their main dietary requirement, Chinook Salmon, is being hunted too greatly, and its numbers are dropping. Throw in some increased stress from whale watchers who get too close, and the 89 member strong species is in serious trouble.

It was early in the morning when I was listening to this so I should be forgiven for my next thought which ran:
"Why don't we just grow more salmon?"
Which is a bit embarrassing, considering that I like to consider myself a super-genius but I then made it worse by wondering how we would do that; obviously by increasing the salmon's main food supply which is smaller fish (When I discovered Salmon are mostly carnivorous, my toes shriveled like old lentils - I may never swim in random lakes again) and then wondered how we could do that, obviously by increasing things like oceanic algae and various plants, since it will eventually come down to plants, but then at this point I began to consider the higher levels of the chain. The increased Salmon will undoubtedly lead to higher levels of things which eat Salmon, such as eagles, bears, killer whales, and bigger fish, most of which also like to eat us (I may never set foot in water again - my tub might be hiding a killer whale). This whole issue is likely to lead us to a circumstance roughly similar to the one experienced by Bob the angry flower, where he releases a species of fungus, then releases something else to control it, culminating in the entire human population being devoured by carnivorous tribble-like creatures that he released to rectify the whole situation.

Until I considered that we understand reproduction pretty well, all we need to do is understand the multiplier effect, an economic term used to imply the resounding ramifications experienced within the economy when a tax cut or unexpected surge of income provokes consumer spending. Analysts have found a way to calculate the expected increase to keep us from plunging headlong into rampant inflation, effectively courting the inflation to provide maximum growth. If we applied this principle to restocking our planet with species, it would take a while to obtain all the relevant statistics (mortality rate, consumption rate, etc) to most accurately represent the environmental multiplier effect but if there was a way to do it, Economists would be it.

In that vein, Economists are excellent evaluators of human motivation, observing external events that lead to strange behaviors, even if they can't predict the next "Furby" craze. One of the main problems of the environmental movement has been getting enough people motivated to form a "critical mass", which is functionally the number of people it  would take to make environmentalism more efficient than a consumption-based lifestyle. Without this mass exodus towards conscientiousness, it is still more profitable to maintain the status quo. With most economists' backgrounds in recommending government policy to motivate people and regulations, this could be applied to the human component of environmentalism while not damaging the essential capitalistic nature of our nations' markets.

Finally this may be the most uncomfortable reason, but the main motivation people have for building a career in environmentalism is that they want to save the world, but this motivation can sometimes blind us to the harsh realities of the situation and solutions. Economists may not necessarily have that problem. Not to imply they are heartless, just that they are motivated by results and numbers,  and this change in emphasis might be the focus we need.

This may sound like a radical suggestion but consider; economists managed to create a machine which simulated movements of the greater economy with the use of water in tubes and control inflation within our massive nation to an extent that it stays within its narrow little band of 1 to 3 percent year after year. I think we should give them a shot.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As you say, the economists do a good job of keeping inflation in that narrow band ... for the most part. But then something catastrophic happens, inflation gets out of control and the answer is that "well, we can't always control it." With the economy, the thought of a major, unexpected change is bad enough but at least we know that there always will be an economy. It may be different from what we had before and a very painful change for some people, but we'll carry on. With the environment, if they get it wrong, the catastrophe may be final.
Maybe I'm just paranoid about trying to control something so vast and complex; I highly doubt we'll ever be smart enough to completely understand it and without that understanding the chance of making a mistake is pretty big.
On the other hand, I think we're not doing a great job right now, so maybe you've got the right idea.
lol, mapa