Saturday, December 27, 2008

More Environmental Economics...

Art Carden comments on discounting the future with respect to environmental and economic policy. He comes to a fairly radical conclusion:
At first glance, the goal of recycling more and conserving more seems appropriate, even desirable. As Landsburg's example shows, however, advocates of conservation do not have the information they need to make the right decision if property rights aren't clearly defined. Further, as Block's example shows, if we really are to care about future generations and sacrifice on their behalf by not discounting the future, the inevitable destruction of the Earth when the sun dies out suggests a radically different approach. If we are really as concerned about our multi-great grandchildren who will presumably inhabit the earth in several billion years, we shouldn't be worried about recycling paper. We should be worried about building Battlestar Galactica.
OK, so I didn't actually find the article all that interesting. It just gives me the excuse to make a point with respect to the whole recycling/save the forest argument. Wouldn't we have MORE trees if we used MORE paper? Think about it. Whether we like it or not, or even whether we know about it or not, most of the forest land of the US is actually used for lumber. I know, because I used to hunt such areas. The land is allowed to grow for ~20 years or so, then it is clearcut in patchwork, harvesting the trees for their wood and planting new, young trees for harvesting in ~20 years or so. You wouldn't know it to drive through, or even walk through, with all the wildlife and the natural beauty, but most forestland in the US is actually serving as "treefarms." So by reducing demand for paper, we should be reducing the value of those trees, and therefore, the acreage of land dedicated to producing lumber. In my opinion, if you want more forestland in the US, use MORE paper, not less. But that's just my opinion.

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