Saving the world isn’t cheap. But a new ocean health index throws that framework into the recycling heap.
Ordinarily, tensions between commerce and conservation are inescapable. This past week alone provides plenty of examples: When a ski company released plans to build an 11,000-foot-long gondola line linking two ski resorts in Utah, environmentalists called foul, and when Nevada threatened to pull out of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency—the agency tasked with coordinating between Nevada and California to keep Tahoe crystal clear—unless the agency paid more attention to economic factors.
Looking long-term, issues like climate change, deforestation, and energy transportation all point to the same problem: Saving the world isn’t cheap. But a new Ocean Health Index throws that notion into the recycling heap.
The new index is based on a scoring system that evaluates ecological, social, economic, and political factors to determine the value countries extract for their coastlines. What makes the index so groundbreaking is that a country can receive a poor score not just for over-exploiting its waterways, but for failing to fully harness their economic potential. Dump too many pollutants into the water, lose a point. Net too few fish, same deal.
Put another way, economics matter, and they’re not pitted against preservation, but alongside them within a framework of sustainability. As Benjamin Halpern, one of the study’s authors, said in an interview with National Geographic, the index isn’t designed to merely measure how pristine the water is; rather, “we’re measuring how well the ocean can deliver benefits for that place.”
Now, imagine if such an index were available for the air and land. Would it reframe how we think about, say, climate change? Imagine a score that punished a country for not maximizing its economic output by refusing to build a pipeline but also rewarded it for avoiding fracking. Such a score wouldn’t just punish actions that harm the environment, but reward for making the most of the world’s resources.
As you consider the implications of a global environmental health index, it’s worth noting another bit of research that isn’t all that it appears: The X-51A, the Mach-5 missile that hopes to revolutionize air travel, promising flights from the U.S. to London in a mere 45 minutes. While many military-developed technologies make it into the civilian realm, this missile is targeted for a very specific use: Hitting any target within minutes. But with Wednesday’s test failure, it looks like super-fast travel isn’t going to be a possibility anytime soon—for adventure seekers and warheads alike.
However, sci-fi fans still have something to cheer for: synthetic meat. It turns out that the Thiel Foundation, chaired by one of PayPal’s co-founders, is backing a startup that thinks 3-D printing could make meat a lot more environmentally friendly. But delicious too?
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