Economic Rights and Environmental Wrongs
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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.
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Chapter 3: Property Rights for Pollution

Rose Anne Devlin and R. Quentin Grafton


Page 37 3 Property Rights for Pollution 3.1 THE PROBLEM In any given day in Mexico City, breathing air can be dangerous. The 21 million or so individuals of the world's largest city cannot take for granted that this necessity of  life will not make them sick. In North America and elsewhere, people listen for the forecasted ultraviolet radiation index before deciding on their daily activities because  spending even a few hours in the summer sun can be a health hazard. How can it be that participating in activities as natural as breathing and strolling in the park are now considered by some to be life threatening? Although the reasons for  dirty air in Mexico City are different from those that have increased UV exposure, the basic cause of these two problems is the same ­pollution. Pollution does not only  result in problems of a grand scale, but it affects us daily in numerous ways. Neighbours playing music too loudly affect our ability to enjoy peace and quiet. Garbage  strewn in the park lessens our enjoyment of the outdoors. Proximity to magnetic fields can increase the likelihood of cancer. And the list goes on.  From our examples in Chapter 2, we know that an across­the­board policy of zero pollution is often not in society's best interest. One way to ‘‘solve” the pollution  problem is to establish private property rights for pollution. Here, we show how this solution works by focusing on real­world cases where property rights have...

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