Octavo Dia

Monday, December 29, 2008

Book Review: Ecological Imperialism


Crosby, Alfred W. Ecological Imperialism: the Biological Expansion of Europe 900-1900. 2nd ed. New York; Cambridge University Press, 2004.

All I really have to say about this book is that Jarrod Diamond ripped Crosby's 1986 first edition wholesale in Guns, Germs, and Steel. There were few ideas in Diamond's work that wasn't at least presaged by Crosby. In fact, Diamond's use of Crosby's work loses a lot in the transition. Diamond's greatest weakness was his misunderstanding of the nature of oceanic travel, which is one of Crosby's strengths.

The general theme of this work is that Afro-Eurasian plants, animals, and diseases have adapted to constant human impact on their environment, and thus thrived in disturbed environments. The biota of ares colonized in the age of sail had not adapted to this disruption, and the combined onslaught of the invasive species (includes plants, animals, insects, micro-organisms, and humans) was profoundly disruptive, thus creating a self-reinforcing cycle of invasion. That is, one invasive species creates a niche for another, which allows a third, which brings in a fourth, which enlarges the niches of the first three.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

How to regulate fisheries.

Quotas don't work.

That much has been established around the world as we've tried to protect fisheries. It leads to tremendous waste of bycaught fish whose quotas have been exceeded.

Here is my proposal: (a) set a flat fee for bycatch and (b) auction off biomass rights as a percent of revenue to fishing companies.

The flat fee for bycatch would provide an incentive for people to (a) avoid bycatch and (b) sell it if they can (thus using it, rather than wasting it).

Auctioning the biomass rights would raise the price of sea products, thereby reducing the demand for them. As demand decreases, fewer fish (and other sea creatures), will be taken from the ocean, and they should recover (or at least not decline as quickly).

How to reduce carbon emissions

I don't like the general idea of giving government power of carbon, the stuff of life, but if you can achieve the same goals by other means, why not?

Here is the background: the price of mineral rights on federal lands was set in the late 1800's. It is a nominal fee. A dollar or three an acre.

Here is my proposal: auction the mineral rights as a percentage of revenue.

Benefits: it would raise the price of coal, oil, and oil sands closer to their value. It would therefore reduce consumption (thereby cutting carbon pollution) and make green tech such as wind power more competitive. It would also increase government revenue.

It seems to have a similar effect with much less government regulation and interference in our lives and the economy.