I started a new course on Ecosystem services that has a game in it to illustrate points about the costs of selecting or using land for producing food for humans with agriculture and ranching. Ecosystems provide free services to the human economy that may or may not be sustainable. They provide free grass for grazing and water for watering yet overuse can reduce the service.
Before going further I should suggest that there are alternative and additional sources for taking online courses for free. The genre is called massive open online courses and there is one actually named MOOC (pronounced mook).
Ecosystems sustain human life and biologically speaking all of the life on Earth is embeded within the ecosphere. As the ecosphere is destroyed, insulted, reduced in extent so is human security to exist in a viable ecosphere. The ecosystem trade off game in the course lesson one has the player select land squares to locate ranches and farms. The land selections have cost values for water, carbon sequestration and so forth rated from low to high and values for producing income from low to high. The combination of values alltogether determines the productivity of land selections.
I suppose one wants the lowest possible ecosystem costs and highest possible income. I wrote a comment on the game and how to improve it…
Agriculture in some areas with ranching seemed to reduce income or vice versa. Ecoservice regions with low value tended to have low income too, yet not always.
Maybe clarifying productivity and income would be useful; are they the same? Does maximizing productivity invariably equal maximizing income? In real economics doesn’t over-production reduce price per unit sometimes?
Sometimes in the game the symbol for ranching or agriculture would disappear when working on the other and one would need to quit the ranching or agriculture and replace it after going into the other mode. The symbols should be immutable when working in the alternate mode (ranching vs agriculture).
The old game of battleship had players picking out squares they couldn’t see rather randomly to try to locate and sink enemy ships. The trade off game round one reminded me of that. There didn’t seem to be much information about how to get positive scores, and that is time consuming in regard to opportunity cost. Some information should be provided a priori in order to maximize the score through making informed decisions/choices of squares, acres etc to exploit for producing food.
Aesthetic values of wild areas should be valued too. Making ecosystem slums has very negative value too. It may be that ecosystem services is an area where sensibilities of good art and human survival coincide.
When assigning paradigms to evaluate the ecosystem for its value to the human economy on a sustainable basis (for it is too obvious that to use and destroy the ecosphere entirely might snuff out all human life on Earth) one must wonder how politically one would implment the value system and set its parameters. Would one intitialize the system by calculating the total food production requirements needed to sustain the human race and them find the least harmful acres of the planet to host production? Alternatively would it be possible to use a trial and error, piecemeal private sector, free enterprise approach to production and land use and gamble on the outcome?