Thursday, October 15, 2009

Sylvia Earle on Colbert

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Sylvia Earle
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorMichael Moore

It's been a bonanza for ocean conservationists on fake news shows recently - first Jon Stewart mocks Sean Hannity's ignorance of how ecosystems work, and now Stephen Colbert talks to Her Deepness about overfishing and ocean health.

Although her clip puts me in mind of something I've always wanted to see: accurate pricing of goods that are only cheap when you ignore the environmental harm they cause. Wouldn't it be nice to have two prices for a pound of fish - the actual price the consumer pays, and then the cost per pound when pollution from fishing vessels, bycatch and habitat damage are included? Not to mention government subsidies, or, if catch limits are above those recommended by scientists, how much the economy will lose if the fishery collapses. It won't change behavior overnight, but I'm convinced people will never understand the need to conserve unless they understand the value of what they lose when a product, service, or food source is obtained or made in an environmentally damaging way.

We need to stop thinking about environmental protection as a luxury good, only to be obtained when convenient. Environmental damage and overfishing involve real costs, both in the short-term and the long-term. We can no longer let those who incur these costs avoid paying for them. If you go to a gym, you're expected to pay for the privilege of using the equipment, which you don't own. Why shouldn't fishing operators pay for the damage they may cause to the ocean environment, which they don't own? Allowing anyone, whether a fishing vessel or a manufacturer, to get off without paying for damage to common resources is to legalize stealing from the public. It also disincentivizes the development of more environmentally-friendly production methods.

Overfishing isn't just a problem for fish. It's theft of a resource that, as Sylvia says, keeps us all alive.

1 comment:

Canada Guy said...

Here's a summary of some of the environmental threats to our oceans. The way things are going, there could be no fish left in the oceans in as little as 40 years.