31 March 2015

Diversity and biodiversity

Jonathan Franzen writes about biodiversity and whether the emphasis on climate change is diverting worthwhile effort and resources away from conservation. He visits Costa Rica and looks at conservation efforts in the northern dry-forest region of Guanacaste:
The question that most foreign visitors to Guanacaste ask is how its model can be applied to other centers of biodiversity in the tropics. The answer is that it can’t be. Our economic system encourages monocultural thinking: there exists an optimal solution, a best conservation product, and once we identify it we can scale it up and sell it universally. As the contrast between Amazon Conservation and the A.C.G. [Área Conservación de Guanacaste] suggests, preserving biological diversity requires a corresponding diversity of approach. Carbon Capture:Has climate change made it harder for people to care about conservation?, Jonathan Franzen, 'New Yorker', dated 6 April
This is something I've been advocating for years: to solve our biggest, most complex social and environmental problems we urgently need diverse, adaptive approaches. Social Policy Bonds would encourage such approaches in ways that current policy cannot. Yes, we need some high-level direction as to which objectives we should pursue, and yes, we need some broad system of revenue raising to finance the achievement of some of these goals. But we do not need top-down, one-size-fits-all, programmes based on fossilised science that have been tried, tested and (for the most part) failed. The world is too complex for that.

A Social Policy Bond regime would reward those who achieve such long-term goals as maintaining or increasing biodiversity, without stipulating how these goals shall be achieved. Government, or a group of governments or non-governmental bodies or philanthropists could work together to articulate society's goals and raise revenue for their achievement. But the actual achieving would be done by bondholders (or people paid by bondholders) who would be motivated to form a coalition of interests entirely devoted to achieving society's goals with maximum efficiency. This coalition would probably vary in composition and structure over time, as would the projects it initiates. But at any one time, the market for the bonds would ensure that only the most efficient programmes will be implemented.

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