Into a Less Peopled Less Hostile Planet

The human impact on biodiversity is a product of three root factors, summarized in the heuristic I=PAT identity (Ehrlich and Holdren, 1971). The overall Impact (encompassing all of the drivers of biodiversity loss discussed above) is the product of Population size, per capita Affluence, and the Technologies (and socioeconomic-political systems) used to generate affluence. ''Affluence'' in this context is simply per capita consumption, and ''socioeconomic-political systems'' refer to the strictures that regulate technology use.

Tangible steps to reduce any of these factors will lessen their product and help produce a more hospitable future for biodiversity. A current example that integrates all three factors is the drive to produce biofuel (T) to satisfy the expanding energy consumption (A) of a growing population (P). Unchecked biofuel production has the potential to destroy all moist-tropical biodiversity that lacks conservation status. Biologically impoverished monocultures of oil palm, soybeans, and sugarcane for biodiesel and ethanol are devouring swaths of Brazilian Amazon and Cerrado, Indonesian, and Malaysian tropical rainforests and other vast reservoirs of biodiversity (Fearnside, 2001; Klink and Machado, 2005). However, the production of biofuels from native grassland perennials on agriculturally degraded lands has the potential to reduce carbon emissions without displacing food production or converting native habitats (Tilman et al. , 2006). In this case, an innovative Technological adjustment would reduce overall Impact. Likewise, simple shifts in socioeconomic-political systems—instituting high-occupancy vehicle lanes to reduce carbon emissions, for example, or demanding high-seas ballast water exchange for cargo ships to reduce species introductions—would do a great deal.

Although population growth has slowed or is slowing in many developed countries, it remains high in many developing regions. Much is known about how to hasten the transition to a stable and then declining world population. Education and employment—for women espe-cially—along with access to contraception and safe abortions are the most important components (Rindfuss et al., 1980). Less is known about how to prevent overconsumption of natural resources (Ehrlich and Goulder, 2007). Mass media are a powerful tool for raising environmental aware-

336 / Paul R. Ehrlich and Robert M. Pringle ness and influencing attitudes toward consumption, as demonstrated by Al Gore and his documentary film An Inconvenient Truth. To this end, we should exploit the media to the fullest possible extent. Although more environmentally benign technologies will also help, the battle will not be won without a transformative collective decision by consumers that less can be more. For example, although an 80% shift from beef and pork to farmed fish and poultry could enable displacement of up to 22% of U.S. gasoline consumption with low-impact, high-diversity biofuel (D. Tilman, personal communication), such a shift will not happen without hundreds of millions of conscious decisions that a sustainable economy is worth more than the taste of bacon cheeseburgers.

Into Perpetuity via Endowments for Conserved Areas

As many conservation biologists have noted, formally protected areas are not realizing their full potential, being too few, too small, too far apart, too expensive to establish and maintain, and/or too poorly administered (Noss and Cooperrider, 1994; Kareiva, 2006). These pitfalls notwithstanding, nature parks and other conservation areas are central to the future of biodiversity (Terborgh and van Schaik, 2002).

The outstanding national parks of North America and Australia demonstrate that well-fed voter/taxpayers, whatever their environmental shortcomings, are at least willing and able to support biological preserves; people in poorer countries, the argument goes, cannot necessarily afford that luxury. Of the various forms of revenue used to support protected areas in poor countries, conservation trust funds—specifically, endowment funds intended to last in perpetuity—are the most promising. Unlike taxes, user fees, and debt swaps, endowments provide sustained funding and are relatively resilient to political whims and fluctuations in the demand for ecotourism (Spergel, 2002). As of 2000, conservation trust funds had been established in more than 40 countries, and nine developing nations boasted endowments of US$10 million or more (Spergel, 2002).

Spergel (2002) argues that conservation trust funds should be additional to existing government funding, but this may not always be the case. Consider the following initiative being considered in Costa Rica. It is called Paz Con la Naturaleza—Peace with Nature—and it aims, among other things, to generate $500 million to endow the country's entire conserved-area system. Crucially, this would relieve Costa Rican taxpayers of the burden of financing conservation. Under the plan, $100 million would be spent to consolidate the existing national park system—25% of the country—into 11 large conservation areas (Dalton, 2006; D. H. Janzen, personal communication). The remaining $400 million would be invested outside the country in a university-like endowment; $20 million of annual revenue from that endowment would be divided among the conservation areas and used to cover operating costs, with any remaining income plowed back into the fund for growth. Although the financing would operate at a national and international scale, the plan calls for decentralized local administration of the individual conservation areas. This plan, with an endowment as its centerpiece, simultaneously redresses most of the frequently cited shortcomings of conservation areas: it aims to make them bigger, closer together, better administered, and essentially free to their users (aside from the opportunity cost of the land use).

It is an ambitious goal, to be sure. The price tag is steep by traditional conservation standards, but with many U.S. research universities boasting endowments in the multiple billions of dollars, $500 million to conserve 25% of a nation and 4% of global biodiversity forever—creating the world's first explicitly green country in the process—seems like a bargain. It remains to be seen whether the plan can be implemented in small, stable, "green" Costa Rica, much less anywhere else; we will not know until money is pledged. In any event, perpetual endowment funds have tremendous potential in conservation [e.g., as a source of revenue for restoration and other projects; Spergel (2002) and Schuyt (2005)] and will generally increase the "localization" and longevity of conservation initiatives by tying funds to long-term programs in particular areas.

Guide to Alternative Fuels

Guide to Alternative Fuels

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