02 February 2013

Betting against extinction?

George Monbiot writes:

The gambling company Ladbrokes has been offering odds on the conservation status of various fish species. Until last night it was taking bets on mackerel; recently it has encouraged people to punt on the survival prospects of stocks of yellow fin tuna, swordfish and haddock. You can, if you wish, gamble on extinction. Betting on extinction, 1 February
The article is upsetting to read, though hardly surprising, but I will point out one unlikely potential plus. Suppose a group of wealthy non-governmental organizations, philanthropists and concerned members of the public got together and gambled against extinction? If the odds were decent and they raised a large enough bet then...

Then ...we would have, in effect, a Social Policy Bond which would pay up the specified fish species did not become extinct. The bettors would have an incentive not just to wait passively and watch what happens to the fish, but actively to finance projects that would keep the species going. Such projects could tackle the problem of over-fishing with far more vigour and success than the current shambolic system. The bettors could lobby governments for more effective controls; they could bribe fishers to take early retirement, or train them to do something else. They could produce educational videos aimed at convincing consumers and children about the benefits of alternative sources of protein. Unlike the current system, the bettors would be strongly motivated not just to make reassuring but vapid gestures in the right direction, but actually to do something to combat species extinction.

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