Remediating the environment has been a struggle for our nation and our planet for quite some time. For all the effort and expense on the part of governments and citizens to improve the environment, many environmentalists still do not see much benefit, and believe that environmental problems may soon become a crisis. “Most ecologists would agree that humans are plowing through the Earth’s natural resources at an unsustainable rate — and pushing up against some worrisome thresholds in the biosphere.” (Raudsepp-Hearne)
Perhaps the problem is that humanity has not figured out the correct incentives to solve our substantial ecological dilemma. According to Steven D. Levitt and Stephan J. Dubner, co-authors of Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, “Incentives are the cornerstone of modern life. And understanding them, or, often ferreting them out—is the key to solving just about any riddle from violent crime to sports cheating to online dating” (11). If mankind, led by environmental experts could develop stronger and smarter incentives, for example, ones that effectively motivate people with money, then the ecological damage and harm that is still being done to the Earth’s environment could decrease significantly and faster.
According to a study by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), humanity is at risk in terms of the extinction of species, climate change, and a too rapid growing world population. The 1,400 scientists that took part in this study found that people simply consume more resources than the earth is currently able to provide. (United Nations Environment Programme) The report continues that the damage humans create in the environment is threatening the extinction of many mammals, birds and other creatures, and that “one in ten of the worlds’ largest rivers runs dry every year before it reaches the sea” (United Nations Environment Programme). The report bleakly concludes that the “systematic destruction of the earth’s resources may result in such significant damage to the environment that we might be handing and environmental bill to our children that is impossible to pay” (United Nations Environment Programme).
Levitt and Dubner are much more optimistic, for they say in Superfreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance, “But humankind has a great capacity for finding technological solutions to seemingly intractable problems, and this will likely be the case for global warming. It isn’t that the problem isn’t potentially large, it’s just that human ingenuity—when given proper incentives—is bound to be larger” (Levitt). Better-directed incentives would go a long way towards solving the worlds’ environmental problems. Increasingly the federal government, cities, and corporations are coming up with increasingly creative and useful schemes to get people to be more gentle with the environment.
Many incentives have been implemented in...