Posts Tagged ‘environmental risk’

This was one of discussion questions of the Disasters and Ecosystems MOOC.

Actually the answer is simple. The formula for successful environmental degradation consists of 2 variables – overpopulation and capitalism.

When there are a lot of people – most of them a poor, uneducated and hungry. When you are hungry you will do everything to become less hungry today even if it can potentially lead to negative consequences tomorrow, which you may not even foresee if you are uneducated.

Humans are good in adaptation. When the adaptation is strong enough it leads to abuse (for example, if you are well adopted at the stock market you start abusing it to increase your profit even if it will cost dearly to the other stakeholders – people value their own well-being much more than the other’s and of course much more than the well-being of environment especially when they know that their own impact seems negligible compared to impact of the entire population).  When you live in condition of free market of capitalistic world – you are your only hope for not being hungry (or being more wealthy) now. And as you know from the economic theory – the capitalist economy needs a constant grows of consumption and production – so you need more and more resources to just sustain the economy. In conditions of capitalist market people value today’s profit much more than losses of tomorrow

You see – the capitalist economy needs people to consume more and more; more people – more consumption; more people – more poverty and lack of education; more hungry uneducated people people – more people willing to do anything to survive now and don’t even bother themselves about the future.

Overpopulation and a consumption society (created by capitalist economy) inter-stimulate each other and destroy the environment for the today’s profits or food and doesn’t care much of the consequences of tomorrow because most are either uneducated or doesn’t care at all plus you have to live through today to face consequences of your actions tomorrow (a day-by-day living).

Obviously there are 3 steps to improve the situation:

  • Decrease the population.
  • Educate people.
  • Create new sustainable economy model that would equally value tomorrow’s losses and today’s profits, and would not rely on constantly increasing consumption.

There was a scientific seminar dedicated to environmental risks assessment in the scientific-research centre where I work. A speaker was awfully ignorant in subject unfortunately. As a person who is experienced in environmental risk assessment (see my posts about risks and a particular methodology) I was afraid that I will be the one to ask the speaker (quite an old man) some inconvenient question about formulas he used, but luckily he was ashamed by someone else.

During the discussion the question of monetary aspect of the risk and damage to environment was raised: whether it is possible to use money as the measure of risks that only applicable to environment itself. In other words: is it rational to use money when assessing possible damage to solely ecosystem (there are no money in ecosystem by itself), and how to perform such assessment?

What do YOU think? I wasn’t able to find an appropriate answer at that moment, but now I believe I have a point. My answer is YES, we can use money to assess risks and damage dealt to ecosystem only.

Firstly the assessment is made by humans and for humans. And humans understand monetised value more easily. The approach that I want to propose is about assessment of money that have to be spent to recover ecosystem to exact the same state it was prior to caused or possible damage. Just imagine how much money one have to spent for recreating and reintroduction of just one extinguished species (a tasmanian wolf for example). Here you are a monetised damage to environment.

Another approach I have in mind is about evaluation of risks via relative live value of species (which can be easily monetised too). Lets use this formula for evaluation of life of individual of a given species: V=(1/N)*P, where V – relative value, N – population of the given species (or given areal of species), P – total population of the human beings. We will have a relative value as 1 for humans and 1*(P/N) for a given species. For example for a tiger we will have its relative individual value about 1 076 900! Literally, if we have a choice whether to save 1 million people or a single tiger, the tiger must be saved – not a million of people!!!

And we can monetise this value by multiplication on the average value of the single human life (you can play a bit with numbers given here).

So the damage to ecosystem may be assessed via loss of number of individuals of species that live in a given ecosystem and we are able to easily evaluate a relative value of the individuals of the each species, and it can be easyly monetised.