When something seems to go wrong with the
environment, people often accept that the government should take charge to protect it
from people without asking is central control any better? There was a time when population was low and
conservation wasn’t really on people’s minds. Like in Nepal. Big mountains, Big cats, and
diverse forests that people used for firewood and animal feed.
But as population began to rise, deforestation started to become bigger problems.
So in 1957 the government took control of the forests to try and stop people from using
them so much. The plan: was to put it all under government
ownership, take inventories of all the trees, find out how much can uses and require people
to have a permit to take anything from the forests. Then they imprisoned or fined those who broke the rules. Good plan? No.
Bad plan. Bad government.
You see, even though it wasn’t in writing the locals considered the forests their own
property and they managed it themselves. While conservation wasn’t a big issue, in
some places like the mountainous regions where growth is slow, they had to work together
to closely control how much they took and how often.
Other villages might make sure things were distributed to people evenly.
These institutions most likely weren’t adapted for the new demand on the forests.
But after nationalization, most of the communes that used to operate were basically split
up since they didn’t feel they owned the forests anymore.
What came after was no longer a matter of trying to work together, but competing against
each other. You see, to get firewood or animal feed, they
needed a permit. But the permit offices were scattered and
could take days to get to. So most just risked the consequences and took
products illegally. And Nepal is made up of thousands of forests
scattered over difficult terrain. Monitoring of the new rules turned out to be basically
impossible. There fear of enforcement, but most illegal
activity went unpunished and people generally took what they wanted.
Most people held some private land of their own for agriculture and trees.
But under the new laws, the government could take private land if they felt it was necessary.
For example: any land left unused for longer than 2 years could be taken by the government.
But just letting the land rest like this was a common regenerative practice. Why should
they lose their land for taking care of it. So clearly rules like this need to be changed.
But to change a rule, they would need to travel to a forest office, convince them that the
rule needs to be changed. Carry that on to another level of government
where a bunch of people in suits can deliberate. And if that’s all successful, then they need
to communicate the change to the millions of people in the secluded places all over
the country. This is way too much work to change 1 rule.
But really, it’s indicative of the inefficiency of the whole plan.
So it was all ultimately a failure. After government control, the people didn’t
work, they couldn’t work together because the forests weren’t technically theirs to
manage and deforestation actually accelerated. It wasn’t that the government was incompetent,
or evil. It’s just, to implement the plan, they needed to decide who could use it, when,
how much, monitor everything and make sure all the information on all these things was
accurately. And each forest and each community would need
different considerations. It’s…expensive.
And the people won’t think it’s fair when an outsider comes in to try and claim the
resource, even with good intentions. And outsiders typically won’t understand as
much or care as much about a resource as those who work with and rely on it.
They’re just too disconnected from the resource. And the further away you look at someone or
something from, the more you’ll overlook the way they really are.
You might think one group of people are inherently sensible and another are inherently incompetent.
You’ll be forced to work from theory, assumptions and models like the tragedy of the commons
and the prisoners dilemma. Models like these are nice because they can
explain different situations all over the world. But their just metaphors that can tell
you maybe 1 or 2 things. Take this picture…. that I drew.
It represents a person. You can use it to describe a person in different
situations. But it doesn’t really tell you anything about
real people. We would have to accept a lot of assumptions
to use it literally, like people are 2 dimensional faceless anorexics…. with no hands or genitals.
We have to make a lot of assumptions to make these models work too.
And when policy makers assume that these assumptions are true in real situations, they run into
problems. So we need a different approach.
Let’s check out here. Alanya Turkey. In the 1970s the fishery wasn’t doing great.
There were too many fishermen chasing fewer and fewer fish People invested in boats and
fishing equipment but there were so many people fishing that there was no guarantee they would
catch enough fish to make their money back. So people would fight, physically, over the
good fishing spots. So the local fishing cooperative developed
a system to make it fair. The whole area was split up into fishing spots
such that fishing in one spot wouldn’t block the migration of fish to the next spot.
Every year, a list is produced of all the licensed fishers and they are randomly assigned to a spot. Then every day from september to january each
fisher moves east to the next location. From January to May, when the fish migration switches
direction, they switch the direction of the cycle to ensure everyone gets a fair chance.
Monitoring people’s compliance with the rules came about naturally from the rotation system.
Everybody knows where they’re supposed to be and if someone is in your spot, you’ll
know right away. Monitoring like this is almost free.
And they carry out the the punishment themselves too. If they need to they can cut a fishermen’s nets
or kick them out of the system. But because most people understand the system is beneficial
to everyone, they usually they just need to give them a warning. And most everyone just
follows the rules. And rules are easier to change because those
who make the rules, are those who follow them. If they meet somewhere in town, everyone gets
a chance to bring up issues, and everybody hears them. Communication this way cheap and
quick. So the people of Alanya were able to create
their own institution to use the resource in a fair way.
It’s not that the government shouldn’t have any hand in the resource.
It’s just ultimately, resource management isn’t done in a board room by legislatures.
But by foresters and fishermen, those who work with the resource in the field.
So the management needs to be receptive to them in some way. That’s why these institutions are best adapted case by case.
Sweeping statements about who should do what or about how the environment can be helped,
are not very helpful. This strategy that failed in Nepal, actually
works OK in other places like Canada. But most Canadians don’t heat their homes with
wood or use forest products for fodder. So the permits go out to large companies rather
than hundreds of thousands of individuals. Also the population of Canada, is about the
same as Nepal. In 1978 the Nepal government started working
with the communities allowing them to own and manage the forests. They began growing back
and people’s livelihood improved. … Grands banks cod was one of the biggest
populations on the planet. So what happened. Well it turned out, Cod was made of meat.
And because of advances in technology, Cod catch reached record levels. The researchers
and local fishermen warned of the declines in population. So why didn’t it stop? The way the system was set up, the department….