How Economists Are Saving Our Ecosystems
Comic villains are always hatching nefarious schemes. These usually involve forcing a superhero to choose between saving an entire planet or the woman he loves. Why are ecologists finding themselves in the same position?
Today, real-life ecologists are being forced to decide which species to save when it's clear that not all are going to make it. Endangered species—and plans to save them—stir up passions. But some scientists are turning to a rather dispassionate solution for this issue: economics.
For example, breeds of cattle are going extinct quickly, and there's not enough money or interest to save all of them. So Australian researchers have turned to the theories of Harvard University's Martin Weitzman to try to figure out what species has the best chance, and would be the best investment of ecologists' time.
They determined that it makes more sense to save Ethiopian cattle over the similarly threatened Somalian and Kenyan breeds after factoring in not only that Ethiopian cows was the most endangered, but also that the herders would be the most willing to adapt and embrace conservation tactics to protect their breed. Voila!