Monday, February 04, 2008

Just Science 2008

An e-mail this morning reminded me that I'd signed up for this year's version of the Just Science blogging binge.

So, as today's contribution, here's a couple of things of which I have seen no media coverage but which I think are worth a look.

A paper in Ecological Economics by Blake Alcott, available here, takes issue with the idea that frugality can save the world...

One alleged weapon against unsustainable environmental impact is for the wealthy to consume less. [But] the lower initial demand lowers prices, which in turn stimulates new demand by others. The strategy moreover addresses only the rich, raising questions of its theoretical maximum efficacy. Its proponents usually conflate frugality with the North–South dichotomy and intragenerational with intergenerational equity. Moreover, there are difficulties with the supporting arguments that frugality is good for one’s own sake as well as for the environment, and that the rich should ‘lead the way’ to living more lightly. Personal behaviour change is furthermore not a substitute for international political efforts.

I agree with the last bit. But I suspect that, even if it doesn't directly lead to less consumption, consuming less would be good for people (me included) in other ways - mental health, changed priorities, philosophical shifts etc. - that would probably ultimately be good for the environment.

The other is slightly similar, intellectually - a paper in Ecology Letters looking at how ecosystems respond to global (climate) change. The counterintuitive point is that species in more diverse places will be less able to adapt to change (in an evolutionary sense) because there will already be someone there better adapted to the new conditions, and so they'll get out-competed before they can change.