While some other nations are doing their best to wangle legal conservation precedents by giving Nature individual rights (instead of regarding it as property), we here in the United States are considering a different (and altogether too "American") route by assigning a price tag to endangered species.
That's right. As it stands today, allocation of federal funding for the protection of endangered species is a last-minute, desperate, and expensive affair. Instead, James Mandell and his colleagues at Cornell University are proposing to create a kind of organismal-derivatives market, where the costs of conservation are considered long before pricey and disruptive measures have to be put in place.
According to Wired's report, the plan goes as follows:
– Our helpful Feds assign a price tag to protecting a creature under the Endangered Species Act.
– That money funds contracts, sold to landowners and developers, that pay out if the species thrives.
– If the species declines below a predetermined number, those contracts are voided and the money is re-allocated to recovery programs.
So bureaucracy and capitalism might be an effective engine of conservation after all? It doesn't seem likely… but I have to commend the authors of this proposal for giving it a "college try."
Image: "A derivative approach to endangered species
conservation." By James T. Mandel, C. Josh Donlan, and Jonathan
Armstrong. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, Vol. 7 No. 2,
March 1, 2009.