Frontiers of Environmental Economics
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Frontiers of Environmental Economics

Edited by Henk Folmer, H. Landis Gabel, Shelby Gerking and Adam Rose

Top European and American scholars contribute to this cutting-edge volume on little-researched areas of environmental and resource economics. Topics include spatial economics, poverty and development, experimental economics, large-scale risk and its management, organizational economics, technological innovation and diffusion and many more.
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Chapter 10: Ecosystems as lotteries

Thomas D. Crocker and Jason F. Shogren


Thomas D. Crocker and Jason F. Shogren 1 INTRODUCTION The connections and conflicts among private land uses, collective environmental protocols, and ecosystem geographies are much talked about, and yet few studies have explored their interaction. This chapter frames this nexus of private action, collective constraints, and ecosystem services by depicting ecosystems as lotteries. Ecosystem lotteries reflect our view that the odds and outcomes of good/bad states of nature are in part determined by private choices collectively constrained by environmental protocols defined by outside experts. Understanding the uncertainties and risk embedded in the private–collective–ecosystem nexus is crucial for more effective environmental policy. To see why, follow our thread of logic. Major private land uses include the production of timber, food, minerals, housing space and other extractive, ecosystem-altering activities. Governments worry about how these activities might affect the odds that private land will continue to provide amenity and life support services to society. Perceived tensions between private interests in extractive activities and collective interests in maintaining ecosystem services have spawned a myriad of public regulatory agencies and collective protocols. Collective protocols define a new set of constraints on private land use that serve either to take rents from or give rents to private land. New protocols institutionalize a public policy reorientation toward the risks and benefits of preservation (see, for example, Shogren, 1998a, on ‘The West’ in the United States), an uncertain and frequently contested reorientation often justified by vague references to the notion...

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