03 April 2009

Biodiversity and Social Policy Bonds

The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity estimates three species become extinct each hour. That's 72 every day; 26,280 each year. .... [Paul Ehrlich] compares nature's biodiversity to the engineered redundancy in an airplane. The “rivet hypothesis” holds that you can lose some rivets in a plane's wing and it will continue to fly, said Ehrlich. At some point, however, the loss of just one more rivet becomes catastrophic. 'Dead Reckoning', Scott LaFee
How would a Social Policy Bond try to tackle loss of biodiversity? One way could be to target not the number of species (remaining, or becoming extinct) because the data are so scanty, but rather to target some index comprising habitat and a large number of indicator species. For ease of measurement it could be stipulated that a random sample of, say 100 out of a total of 10000 species, will determine whether the redemption conditions of the bonds have been met. Similarly, with the areas of habitat loss. Investors in 'Species Preservation Bonds' would therefore would concentrate their efforts on preserving all species, and all habitat.

There are lots of fish-hooks in this idea, and all sorts of potential for abuse and corruption. But does anyone have a better alternative? I don't see any effective global alternatives to application of the Social Policy Bond principle even being discussed. The link makes clear that we are headed for an ecological catastrophe if we carry on as we are doing. By 'we', I mean human beings. Some species will benefit from our demise:
[I]f mass extinction goes on long enough – events have lasted from hundreds of thousands to millions of years – what's left may consist only of “weedy survivors,” said Peter Ward, a paleontologist at the University of Washington. These are animals supremely adaptable and opportunistic, such as flies, rats, crows, coyotes and intestinal parasites.

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