Exploring the Limits of Two Opposing Paradigms, Third Edition
Chapter 4: Preserving Natural Capital in a World of Risk, Uncertainty and Ignorance
In the last chapter it was shown that both paradigms are non-falsifiable. But the question still open is this: if society is faced with risk, uncertainty and ignorance about the consequences of running down natural capital, which forms, how much and at what cost should it preserve natural capital? This is the major topic of this chapter. The first aim of this chapter is to indicate which forms of natural capital are more likely to be non-substitutable than others and are therefore in need of preservation. Note the emphasis on 'likely': from the analysis in Chapter 3 it follows that the best we can hope for is to make a persuasive case for the importance of the preservation of natural capital. The major objective of this chapter lies somewhere else, however. It tries to explore the difficulties in finding the extent to which these forms of capital need to be preserved and how much cost should be incurred for preservation. Section 4.1 begins by highlighting distinctive features of some forms of natural capital. There are two aspects - basic life-support function and irreversibility of destruction - that distinguish some forms of natural capital from other forms of capital. Section 4.2 discusses in more depth what has hitherto been dealt with rather implicitly: that the real world is plagued by the absence of perfect information and certainty and characterised by risk, uncertainty and ignorance instead. Section 4.3 presents various approaches towards coping with risk, uncertainty and ignorance. The traditional neoclassical approach...
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