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and I’m so far from knowing, it boggles the mind.” If I understand what the economists are saying, irreversible oopses and boggles of uncertainty are the main factors in decisions affecting biodiversity. In the passion to express the values of a species in dollar figures, it will be unfortunate if we forget to count oopses and boggles as well.
I believe that we should abandon the divide-and-conquer approach. I suggest we use the big picture method instead. Now, the question is easier. The value of biodiversity is the value of everything there is. It is the summed value of all the GNPs of all countries from now until the end of the world. We know that, because our very lives and our economies are dependent upon biodiversity. If biodiversity is reduced sufficiently, and we do not know the disaster point, there will no longer be any conscious beings. With them will go all value—economic and otherwise.
I am afraid this answer will not be useful to those who want to know the value lost when they act to extinguish a species, but it seems a better answer than a guess, even a guess that counts oopses and boggles as well as dollars.
One thing we know: if we lose enough species, we will be sorry. The guessing game is really Russian roulette. Each species lost without serious consequences has been a blank in the chamber. But how can we know before we pull the trigger? That is the question we should be asking (Ehrlich and Ehrlich, 1981).
Ehrlich, P.R., and A.Ehrlich. 1981. Extinction. The Causes and Consequences of the Disappearance of Species. Random House, New York. 305 pp.
Fisher, A.C. 1981. Economic Analysis and the Extinction of Species. Report No. ERG-WP-81–4. Energy and Resources Group, Berkeley, Calif. 19 pp.
Fisher, A.C., and W.M.Hanemann. 1985. Option Value and the Extinction of Species. California Agricultural Experiment Station, Berkeley. 35 pp.
Lewis, W.H., and M.P.F.Elvin-Lewis. 1977. Medical Botany. John Wiley & Sons, New York. 515 pp.
Myers, N. 1979. The Sinking Ark. Pergamon, Oxford. 307 pp.
Myers, N. 1983. A Wealth of Wild Species: Storehouse for Human Welfare. Westview Press, Boulder, Colo. 274 pp.