Archive for Economics

Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush

To understand how individuals interact biologists use a branch of mathematics known as game theory, the central assumption of which is that entities (usually individuals) behave rationally; that is, they act in their own best interests in light of the available information about what others are doing. From an evolutionary perspective, it’s about maximizing one’s own success relative to that of others.

A famous example of the application of game theory to behaviour is the so-called Prisoner’s Dilemma. Imagine two suspects, held in separate cells. If they both stick with their story (loosely, “I dahn’t nah nuffin’ mate”) the authorities will have no evidence on which to convict and both will go free. Read the rest of this entry »

Oh no we don’t!

The pantomime season is approaching fast, and seemingly kicked off with this piece on the BBC’s Countryfile programme last Sunday, in which Tom Heap explored the intriguing question of “why burning trees is better for the environment than many think”.

Subsequent media coverage has quoted the support of a number of conservation bodies, including ourselves, for the Forestry Commission’s desire to harvest two million tonnes of woodfuel a year from the UK’s “undermanaged” woods. Our supporters would rightly question why a woodland conservation charity like the Woodland Trust would wish to see trees felled and burned to produce heat. Read the rest of this entry »

Is it trendy to deny climate change?

I don't believe it! Victor Meldrew.

Just about any online conversation on climate change, such as today’s story in the Independent that we’re staring at a six degree rise by 2100, rapidly descends into a mud slinging match over the cause of climate change (just look at the comments following the main piece).

In fairness, there probably aren’t that many people out there that deny climate change is really happening. The few high-profile individuals that do are seen by most as the frontsmen of the climate equivalent to the Flat Earth Society: the serious debate isn’t around whether climate change is happening, but what’s causing it. Read the rest of this entry »

Rules that need be neither bent nor broken

Photo (c) Darren Hester

The UK Government’s Low Carbon Transition Plan, published in July this year, makes the case for the creation of 10,000 hectares of new woodland a year for the next fifteen years. And that’s just for England: Scotland already has a similar target. If achieved, the English contribution alone could draw an estimated 50 million tonnes out of the atmosphere by 2050.

Only it’s not really a target. It’s an aspiration, an altogether different thing. Read the rest of this entry »

REDDy for a change?

There was a fascinating meeting at the International Institute for Environment and Development last night. Professor Virgílio Viana, visiting fellow and director general of the Amazon Sustainability Foundation talked about the project he oversees in the Amazonas, the largest Brazilian Amazon state. A short summary of what he covered is in this video:

Viana’s presentation outlined the successes of the project, which has seen a switch in governmental policy from handing out free chainsaws towards a cultural value of seeing standing trees as being worth more than felled ones. Read the rest of this entry »

Greenwash, Ecobuild, Disclosure

Letting the train take the strainBit of a mixed bag this, and perhaps the title of this post is a little too sweeping, but then we’re feeling a little incensed by a recent article in the Independent. In a spectacularly poorly researched piece of dross, Simon Usborne and Helen Brown attempt to “face the facts many ecologists would rather ignore”.

There’s a grain of truth in some of them, such as the notion that food miles aren’t a bombproof proxy for the carbon footprint of a product. Indeed, we’ve touched on the same subject. Similarly, it’s true to say that an ancient woodland isn’t sequestering carbon at the same rate as a fast growing, young plantation of, say, eucalyptus trees. Read the rest of this entry »

Strawberry surprise

Is far flung fruit better for the environment?

Is far flung fruit better for the environment?

We’ve alluded to the idea that “food miles” need to be treated with caution elsewhere. Here’s another example: the Co-operative Group’s annual sustainability report contains details of a “life-cycle” analysis (LCA) of the amount of embedded carbon in a humble 400g punnet of strawberries.

The domestic “Ava” offering, grown at Blairgowrie farm in Scotland, contains 850g of carbon. The alternative “Sabrosa” strawberries, from Spain, contain only 600g of carbon. If you’re basing your purchase decision solely on global warming impact you should buy the Spanish version. Read the rest of this entry »