November 05, 2008

The extinction of species that have no conservation value

David Ehrenfeld writes in Conservation Biology (Neoliberalization of Conservation):
It has been known for many years that good economics will not necessarily promote conservation. For example, Clark (1973) showed, with respect to whaling, that taking quick profits by exploiting whales to extinction and then reinvesting the profits in growth industries was, unfortunately, economically superior to reducing the whale harvest to a sustainable level.
I agree that "good economics will not necessarily promote conservation." Indeed, conservation is not always good. However, Clark's study has little to do with this question. For the purposes of his study Clark considered only the harvest value of whales, and not their ecological, scientific or aesthetic values. And he explicitly rejected the conclusion that exploiting whales to extinction is economically superior to preserving them:
It must be emphasized that the model used here is not a welfare model, so that no assertion can made to the effect that extinction is socially optimal.

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