Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Land preservation easement in Wilmington

Airlie Gardens is a pretty amazing place and likely worth millions in terms of potential (private) land rents. Its preservation surely generates massive rents to the public at large (via recreation, education and aesthetics). Environmental rents are a public good, and as such those rents will not likely be provided by markets. Preservation may indeed be what's best for society, but without government intervention of some sort, it won't happen.

Because of tough economic times we're experiencing, the opportunity cost of Airlie preservation (lost revenues from sale) made its way into budgetary discussions by the county. The need to safeguard Airlie is therefore getting some attention.

Read the story here at the StarNewsOnline

Read an editorial comment here

What do you think about the easement?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

An interesting read

"What the Green Movement Got Wrong" from Charles Moore of The Telegraph, presents an interesting perspective on solutions to environmental issues. He's referring to a program that aired on BBC. I haven't seen it yet, but will search for a link.

There are a few issues here that I agree with. First, trying to change human nature is a losing battle. Human nature is just nature after all, and people, like all animals, will always pursue their own best interest. Sustainable solutions can be achieved using human nature as an ally rather than trying to stop it. Incentives work because incentives are how people make decisions. Which leads to a second point, the idea that claiming you have the moral highground because you favor conservation overlooks the very simple idea that traditional environmental conservation is not at all compatible with the alleviation of human poverty. I listened to a lecture a few weeks back (David, what was that guy's name?), and he said something like "the romantic environmentalist is dead", because true conservation of nature (in the sense of limits to extraction) often means that people die. Not exactly a morally superior argument, is it? Finally, and obviously related to the first two points, is the idea that a lot of what we've attempted has failed miserably. Top-down, draconian, command-and-control via standards most often does not achieve anything close to sustainable outcomes. Here's a link to a great paper by Jon Sutinen regarding the efficacy (or lack thereof) of CAC approaches to fisheries managment.

Obviously there's more, and of course a series of articles could be written on what the environmental movement has done right, but I'll leave that up to the discussion.