Economic Rights and Environmental Wrongs

Economic Rights and Environmental Wrongs

Property Rights for the Common Good

Rose Anne Devlin and R. Quentin Grafton

The crisis of environmental degradation has createcharemd an immense volume of literature which focuses on controlling environmental problems. Economic Rights and Environmental Wrongs goes one step further to extend and complement the current debates.

Chapter 4: Property Rights for Natural Resources

Rose Anne Devlin and R. Quentin Grafton

Subjects: economics and finance, environmental economics, environment, environmental economics


Page 68 4 Property Rights for Natural Resources 4.1 CHARACTERISTICS OF NATURAL RESOURCES Natural resources include all aspects of the environment ­ the forests, the oceans, the air we breathe, mineral deposits, soil and freshwater ­ virtually anything that is not  human­made and is of value to us. Natural resources can be renewable, having the potential to be self­perpetuating, or nonrenewable. which can only be depleted.  Renewable and Nonrenewable Resources Sometimes the distinction between renewable and nonrenewable is not so clear. For instance, old­growth forest in parts of North America is not considered a  renewable resource despite the fact that trees may return even after an area has been logged. The time it would take for an old­growth forest to be restored can be  over a hundred years, rendering it essentially a nonrenewable resource. The fact that renewable resources have the potential to be self­perpetuating or regenerative  also does not preclude the possibility that they can be exploited or depleted to extinction. For instance, the great auk, a flightless sea bird found in the north Atlantic,  once numbered in the millions but was exploited to extinction by the middle of the nineteenth century. Whether a resource is renewable or not has little to do with its scarcity. Some “renewable resources” can be very scarce like the tuatara lizard in New Zealand or the  giant panda in China, while some nonrenewable resources can be  Page 69 abundant. For example, silicon is nonrenewable but is hardly scarce since it...

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