Wednesday, August 09, 2006


This year there has been a surprising number of landslips and mudslides reported in the media. Most of these are caused by agricultural techniques to raise livestock. Land is deforested to create grazing land and roots of trees that usually support the land are removed hence the higher risk of gradual erosion and sudden slides. This produces externalities to many parts of the community. I can remember from my youth many rivers being brown, and that is the way it is for many towns. As the silt accumulates, as the river floor rises, the river can no longer be held by its banks, which have to be built higher and higher.

So who is responsible? The farmers who often inherited the treeless legacy, or consumers who tend to overlook the responsibilities associated with consumption? What is a responsible course?

1 comment:

James said...

As someone with a commerce background, my instinctive answer is that prices should be set which cover all of the costs, including the externalities. The farmers would have to pay for the effects of the erosion, but the cost would be passed on to the consumers.

This is probably far too simplistic and needs more thought. So many other issues present themselves, e.g.: should lamb be priced differently depending on whether it was raised on land which was deforested in the past? Maybe it's just simpler if the government pays for the costs of erosion - therefore spreading it over everyone.

This is more of a topic for a face-to-face discussion.