Lecture 24 Class Notes

[cynshih: this is pasted directly from my notes. will try to clean it up tomorrow]


Touched on in past lectures
NPV, discounting are ways of accounting for future in present decisions
Constitutions: set of rules that are hard to change; durable, core principles of a society

Long time lag between cause & effect
siltation of dams, salt buildup in irrigated agriculture

If environmental impact is inherently long-term and human decision making tends to be short-term, what do we do?

“people can’t think in the long term…too selfish, too myopic,” etc.

No single body of literature exists on the study of long-term decision making; bits and pieces but no coherent collection of research

A few research institutions here & there: RAND corporation, Potsdam Institute on Climate Change—that’s it

Timbering family in Maine, moved into Midwest, ending in Humboldt County in California (Pacific Lumber Company)

“Get the cut out”—work quickly, clear the way for settlement, move on
lumber companies always one step ahead of creditors, very low-capital business

A.S. Murphy: extend the life of the timbering operation by slowing the cutting
Developed further into idea that same forest could be managed to yield lumber into perpetuity as well as providing sustained aesthetic, economic (for nearby towns) and ecological value—utilitarian conservationist and preservationist ethic
At the time it was a radical idea: timbermen planting trees

Changing how problems are defined: how to maximize returns over long term, which means optimizing in the short term

OK but that’s one company…

Other anecdotal evidence:
Constitution of Eritrea: written to endure for the indefinite future
Preservation of art: implicit
Scholarship or faculty chair endowment

Arguably, we engage in long-term decision making all the time

Child psychologists noticed that as young as 3 months, we notice timing of events in seconds; at 2-3 years, talk of past present & future; 5-6 years, understand days of week, beginning to understand seasons; 7-8 years, understand months, beginning to grasp years; continues to lengthen
From middle age on, begin to consider generativity

Evolutionary biology perspective

“grandmother effect”
for women, half their age occurs after reproductive period
selective pressure for long lives, care for elderly
intergenerational aspect: each individual likely experiences five generations: one’s grandparents and parents, and one’s own children and grandchildren as well as one’s own generation; if add great-grandparents and great-grandparenthood, seven generations
since we lived

positive psychology
Compton & casser reading: what are conditions for well-adjusted individual?
From temporal perspective, negative emotions focused on here & now—positive emotions have longer-term benefits in building community and familial bonds

Humans have dual temporal capacity
In short term, we react, seek pleasure, avoid pain
In long term we make plans, seek security

Surprisingly, mindset shift occurs in business

Ostrom et al: management regimes endure for centuries
Newspaper industry: surviving papers set up to endure over long term (privately owned, part of trust with diversified revenue streams)
Microfinance, social entrepreneurship, L3Cs—all adding long-term temporal dimension by incorporating social and environmental considerations

A new language for talking about the long term
Agriculture: “saving the seed,” something we’ve been doing for thousands of years
Spans seasons and generations, cyclic
Food security -> environmental security
Sufficiency: how much is too little? How much is too much?
Future is appreciated not depreciated
Common-sense notion—don’t need any special knowledge to grasp importance
Inherently ecological, about relations (human-human and human-nature)
Normatively, about prudent behavior

Why is the notion of sustainable growth so persistent? (from reading)
Growth is a good thing: a growing child is healthy, a growing crop is boutiful
But how much growth and for what purpose? Children stop growing; plants must put energy into seed production instead of stalk height & roots for us to find them useful