Deforestation: A Concern for Everyone, a Problem for the Wealthy

Jenny DeMarco – Honorbound

It is evident that each individual is unique. This uniqueness is composed of several differences including an individual’s personality and point of view, the way someone speaks and thinks, a person’s circumstances and surroundings, and many other differences. Despite these infinite differences, there is one that stands apart from the others: a difference of preferences. The oddity about this difference is that it relates to a commonality among all individuals: the assumption that “individuals act to make themselves as well off as possible” and to “maximize their own utility.”[i] A person maximizes their utility by doing either what makes them happiest, or what proves to be the most beneficial for their self, both of which are individual preferences.

Our individual preferences change as we grow, whether we are growing up or growing wealthier. “A good that we buy in increasing quantities as we grow richer” is a “luxury good.”[ii] An example of a luxury good is concern for the environment: as people become wealthier their concern for the environment’s protection increases. People who are wealthier, including wealthier nations, have the ability to care for the environment because these individuals or countries do not have to worry about other financial strains. With this in mind, realize that this division between those with wealth and everyone else are only two of the many subcategories that influences our individual preferences. With so many different subcategories, “it is simply bad economics to impose our preferences on individuals whose lives are much, much different.”[iii] For instance, the wealthy should not impose their preferences on those less fortunate. Those with wealth should not expect someone who can barely support their family to be worried about the environment let alone be willing to spend money, that they can’t afford to spend, on the environment. The individual supporting their family will derive more utility by caring for their family, not by helping the environment, thus making their preferences different than those of the wealthy.

Global warming is one of those issues that most people, if not everyone, knows and hears constant talk about. Global warming is mainly caused by “an increase in the amount of long-lived greenhouse gases…particularly carbon dioxide” and deforestation is one cause of increasing carbon dioxide in our atmosphere.[iv] While deforestation negatively affects everyone, some poor countries cut down their forests anyways. It has already been established that imposing preferences on anyone is bad, meaning that wealthier countries should not expect those poorer countries to stop deforestation. Yet, this does not mean that we are out of options and there is not hope for halting deforestation. Instead, it means that wealthy countries should give the poorer counties a reason to want to end deforestation. Poor counties have different preferences than richer counties, and because of this, stopping deforestation is not a poor counties main priority and will not maximize their utility. So, the wealthier nations must find an alternate solution that will increase utility for everyone: helping halt deforestation and aiding the poorer countries. Therefore, deforestation is a concern for everyone because it affects everyone, but it is a problem for the wealthy because they are the ones who can provide the solution(s). Now, the problem is finding the best solution.

Footnotes:

[i] Charles Wheelan, Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2010), 6.

[ii] Charles Wheelan, Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2010), 7.

[iii] Charles Wheelan, Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2010), 8.

[iv] “What is Global Warming?,” WWF, accessed June 12, 2016, http://www.wwf.org.au/our_work/people_and_the_environment/global_warming_and_climate_change/science/what_is_global_warming/.

Fig. 1. Oswell, Adam. Deforestation Picture. Digital image. wwf.org. Accessed June 15, 2016, http://www.wwf.org.au/our_work/saving_the_natural_world/forests/threats/deforestation_and_climate_change/.

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