Russ Roberts

Botkin on Nature, the Environment and Global Warming

EconTalk Episode with Daniel Botkin
Hosted by Russ Roberts
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Daniel Botkin, ecologist and author, talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about how we think about our role as humans in the natural world, the dynamic nature of environmental reality and the implications for how we react to global warming.

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0:36Intro. What is some of the history of how we look at nature? We think of it as starting with Silent Spring but 4000 years old. Three metaphors. What is nature like undisturbed by people, how does nature affect people, how do people affect nature. Ancients believed gods made world so it must be perfect. Great balance of nature. If something's perfect and you change it, it would have to be less than perfect. Mother nature, taken literally, as an organic being. Before scientific era, nature was thought of as alive. Jesuit priest went into a volcano and described it organically. Lucretius's writings, mountains are wrinkles of aging nature. Recurs in Gaia hypothesis. Nature as a machine, watch must have a maker so world must have a maker, mechanical system, steady state, leads to idea that nature has a perfection. But nature isn't perfect. Why is nature in balance an appealing metaphor? Stability of ecological systems is appealing but misleading. Religious influence. Ancient Greeks and Romans, Judeo-Christian views. Perfection was static. For Greeks, beauty lay in symmetry, so height of highest mountain had to match the deepest depth of ocean. Couldn't allow for dynamics. Can be seen in art, nature painted in static beauty.
9:01Why is the view that it is in balance wrong? Data shows it isn't true. Always changing. Hudson Bay fur trading company, number of furs sold, lynx, not just minor variation in populations. History of climate, always changing over time. Climate is one of the drivers for nature so those things will always be changing. Most species have evolved and adapted to change and depend on change, so assuming steady state goes against their needs. But metaphor of balance and static state permeates policy, fisheries, etc. We strive to create a world without human beings--modern idea. A world without people was not considered a desirable world till the 1980s. Wilderness as a good didn't exist. Crossing the Alps was horrible. In 18th century, with rise of science, travelers started to view it as less horrible. Romantic poets were the first to see wilderness as powerful and beautiful. Gilgamesh was a hero for going into the forest and cutting the trees down to let light in. Through civilization we find nature beautiful. If you don't have a down jacket and you go into the Alps, you die. College textbooks still talk of nature as static. Teach that populations grow according to 1838 growth curve, simple curve that levels off. Balance between predator and prey. We are creatures of our culture. Early 20th century ecologists said it has to be in balance or otherwise it can't be explained. The math is cleaner, appealing. Stochastic processes are, however, good at dealing with risk and uncertainty, so there are analytical methods available. Parallel in economics, treating it as physics, a giant machine, econometric models of the economy; but is that accurate? More biological model, Austrian school. Textbooks teach equilibrium: it's easier, and it does capture some of the dynamics isolating one change at a time. In ecology, that last step is not done, model is believed as a reality. Engineering systems analysis tried but never got any headway. Schumpeter podcast.
24:29Can people manage nature? Only partially controllable. If we believe we've had negative effects then we must believe we can affect nature. Forests, fire-dependent; Europeans suppressed the native Americans' fires. Animals require an oxygenated atmosphere, so biology had to affect the environment on a grand scale. Since we have affected nature, we should not just get out of the way. But we tend to act from wrong mythologies. Have to get new metaphor for nature. Missouri River: flooding, never know if you are going to harvest corn or catfish. The moose as a metaphor: depends on young forests and creates them by eating trees down. Morph the Moose. Nature is dynamic and changing. Application to forest management: how would river or moose metaphors change what we do? Fires in the West, Arizona State, ponderosa pine, if they burn at frequent intervals. Since 1870s fire suppression has created less fertility, thickets, but you can't just light a match. Have to cut back first and then light fires. Fires in Southern California, chaparral, pine woodlands, produces a lot of fuel, likely to burn in hot summers. Plants are adapted to frequent fires. Smokey the Bear approach, suppressing the fires, creates more and more fuel on the ground. The way to manage it is to have controlled burns done carefully. "Great Baseball Bat Crisis"--bats made of white ash, have to have clearings to get it; but nobody plants it in plantations, may be problem in supply in long run. Barry Bonds started to use sugar maple for bats.
36:38Thoreau. "In wildness is the preservation of the world." Pro- and anti-environmentalists both interpret comment as return to wilderness. But he was an inventor--invented raisin bread at Walden. To him "wildness" is a state of being. You can read nature. Mount Katahdin in Maine: said of the wilderness that a "poet would pine there." Preferred a local swamp. Wanted mix of intellectualism with nature. Saw woodchuck, spoke of eating it raw because of the wildness in it. John Muir. Gifford Pinchot, first head of forestry service, Yale, sees forest as to be managed for man. Muir opposite view.
42:54Evidence on whether global warming will affect life. Latest statements are that there could be mass extinctions. Botkin's multispecies model. Concerned that rationality has been left behind. 16 scientists in response to statement in 2004 Nature article, Thomason. Review of paper: methods and data in paper are terrible. "Forecasting the Effects of Global Warming on Biodiversity," last times when climate changed, almost nothing went extinct. A few did, caught between alpine and arctic glaciers, but most did fine. Most species are adaptable. Polar bear evolved 500,000 years ago; since then there have been periods of global warming, has still persisted. Data contradicts the predictions of disaster. Models are steady state. IPCC listed three threats, assertion that 20-30% of species are likely to be made extinct. Saying it repeatedly doesn't make it right. Maybe we don't have good data? Tom Lovejoy, editor, recent book, very few species actually went extinct. To say that maybe there were species we didn't know about isn't science any more. Imagining up worst-case sea rises isn't scientific, though of course it would have disastrous effects--it's not plausible. NASA report, current warming of arctic waters are due to cyclic phenomena, about to reverse, not to global warming. Slide from science to speculation. Could this end up making people reject science? Quest for truth.
53:33Balance of nature rears its head. "A one or two degree rise in temperature is dangerous" is not a scientific statement, fallback to constancy, steady state, balance of nature views. Climatologists are arguing about just how warm it actually has gotten in the last million years. Unresolved extent. Would a degree or two more matter to the polar bears? Probably they can adapt to that, since they adapted to the last warming. Think about it the same way as buying an insurance policy. Buy earthquake insurance in California, versus fire insurance: earthquake insurance is probably not cost-effective relative to the risk. Look at global warming as risk assessment. Protect habitats, water use, because these are important even without global warming.
58:40Habitat protection. How successful or unsuccessful has the national park system been? Original purpose of national parks wasn't habitat protection. National Parks are great, but funding to preserve species is way too little. Our mouths are bigger than our actions. We're talking about it, but if we really believe it we need to pay. Yellowstone, grizzly bear is listed as endangered species. Fish and Wildlife Service has no population history of grizzlies to determine what they should recover it to. Wolves, Paul Schillering, elk hunting. Could talk about a range of wolf populations that you'd want if you know enough about them. 40-60 wolves currently; don't want less than 20 or they won't likely repopulate. Probably want between 20 and 100. WSJ piece. Truth test, McCarthyism. You have to answer that you believe global warming is happening or people won't talk to you, cast as evil or morally corrupt. Politically oppressive.

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COMMENTS (18 to date)
Brad writes:

His fossil fuels point was interesting. It's the James Woolsey philosophy -- the former CIA director drives a Prius because he wants to do his part to reduce usage of oil due mostly to geopolitical concerns. But using anthropomorphic global warming as the imperative precludes substitution by ethanol, diesel, biofuels, etc. Instead, we have to move to batteries or hydrogen, which don't offer anywhere near the convenience and low cost of gasoline, and likely won't with any technology already available or on the horizon. I guess I'm not a fan of justifying concern about one issue based on side effects related to another. It just seems like mindless group-think to me.

Schepp writes:

The foundation to this change principle from my perspective is the Physical law of Entropy. A measure of the unavailability of a system’s energy to do work. (Wiki reference from Oxford Dictionary of Physics) Entropy in a closed system by defenition must always increase. Over time nature must change to work in different environment because the available energy is always decreasing. Based on our current scientific understanding of course. I fully expect that our scientific understanding will grow in many ways that we have not thought. I however take that as more proof that things must change over time.

Norm writes:

I share your concerns about the impact AGW theory will have on the future of science. I am deeply worried that if (when?) AGW theory is found to be incorrect the backlash will affect all science not just climatology. There is a danger that scientists will be seen as just another political group only trying to present their ideas as "science", and labeling anyone who disagrees with them as pseudo-scientists.

Have you visited climateaudit.org? It is very dense but also very eye-opening. I had always thought that the heart of science was openness. Scientists presented their data and analysis for all to examine. Not so in climate science. Data is not archived, methods are not explained, code is not made available, papers are reviewed by anonymous peers and rejected if they do not agree with the prevailing ideas. Its an ugly situation.

Syven writes:

I get so sidetracked by discussions about traditional media and open media that I don't spend the time I should with intelligent media and this Daniel Botkin discussion proved to be highly enlightening.

It is a throw away line for me to suggest that economics, biology, philosophy and psychology is affected by industrial age giants such as Marx, Smith, Darwin, Nietzche, Freud - but I am here to learn the wisdom of our own age, and this talk introduced me to Thomas Lovejoy as one such source who I can relate to understand and comprehend an environment which is most certainly a flux of great change.

If I apply the lens of phronesis, Botkin provided me with a lot of practical wisdom but he also brings the key predicament of science in its most alarming context, the pressures of knowing what is good and questioning what should be sound science; the challenge of mythological fiction; and mechanical models where data contradicts assertions, so I was glad to hear about Schumpeter's non-static nature of the economy and I had not heard of John Muir before and how he made a distinction between preservation and conservation. I also found the discussion around wilderness extremely fascinating.

In a world where people are creating synthetic tree's (not mentioned in this broadcast), I am beginning to take an interest in science understanding that I did not take any interest in before. I do not have any pretensions about having great knowledge about these matters but it is important to recognize those who are making a contribution to intelligent discourse and so listening today has been highly refreshing experience.

Thank You
M.

Brad writes:

Norm, In my book, the scientists are already there. They are a political lobby. I figured it out my freshman year of college (1988) as an "Information and Computer Science" major, when the intro course featured a full lecture on "ethics" where we were asked to consider whether it was right for us to take jobs working on SDI or missiles or weapons, etc. Admittedly, the entrepreneurial bug was already biting me, but 95% of the students in the room planned to do exactly that with their careers at that point in time and the defense industry was where all the funding for that department was coming and all the jobs were after graduation. What was the point of that lecture other than to enlighten us that professional scientists in the field were anything but a wannabe political lobby?

muirgeo writes:

"I am deeply worried that if (when?) AGW theory is found to be incorrect the backlash will affect all science not just climatology..."

Norm


Do you worry about where backlash will be directed if they are right? How about if they've underestimated the effects?

muirgeo writes:

Thanks for a good discussion.

The best I can do to address the man vs nature issue is to quote my favorite from Aldo Leopold;


Our grandfathers were less well-housed, well-fed, well-clothed than we are. The strivings by which they bettered their lot are also those which deprived us of Passenger Pigeons. Perhaps we now grieve because we are not sure, in our hearts that we have gained by the exchange. The gadgets of industry bring us more comforts than the pigeons did, but do they add as much to the glory of the spring?
It is a century now since Darwin gave us the first glimpse of the origin of the species. We know now what was unknown to all the preceding caravan of generations: that men are only fellow-voyagers with other creatures in the odyssey of evolution. This new knowledge should have given us, by this time, a sense of kinship with fellow-creatures; a wish to live and let live; a sense of wonder over the magnitude and duration of the biotic enterprise.
Above all we should, in the century since Darwin, have come to know that man, while captain of the adventuring ship, is hardly the sole object of its quest, and that his prior assumptions to this effect arose from the simple necessity of whistling in the dark.
These things, I say, should have come to us. I fear they have not come to many.
For one species to mourn the death of another is a new thing under the sun. The Cro-Magnon who slew the last mammoth thought only of steaks. The sportsman who shot the last Passenger pigeon thought only of his prowess. The sailor who clubbed the last Auck thought of nothing at all. But we, who have lost our pigeons, mourn the loss. Had the funeral been ours, the pigeons would hardly have mourned us. In this fact, rather than in Mr. DuPont's nylons or Mr. Vannevar Bush's bombs, lies objective evidence of our superiority over the beasts.
ALDO LEOPOLD

mulp writes:

I haven't had a chance to listen to the podcast, but reading the comments, I wonder, "what is the benefit to creating a vast xxx-wing conspiracy that requires the cooperation of millions of people, who leads it, and who benefits, and how?"

Am I going to hear yet another argument along the lines of "Silent Spring" has "killed millions of people from malaria" kind of argument which ignores the facts that DDT has never been banned for the limited purpose of fighting such diseases as Malaria and the fact that DDT at its peak use did not kill the mosquitos that carried Malaria because they had evolved to tolerate DDT.

Let me put this in terms that economists can understand.

1. Friedman is the father of monetary theory.
2. Friedman argued that monetary policy will lead to stable currency value and and a healty economy with limited business cycles because in the era of silver backed money, the quantity of silver (and gold) relative to the economy drove natural business cycles to extremes, therefore fiat money is superior.
3. Monetary policy is run by the Fed.
4. During the time of the Fed, there was a great depression and great deflation, and there was stagflation and great inflation.
5. Therefore, monetary theory is wrong.
6. Therefore, Friedman is wrong about everything.

Let me note that while I had read Friedman's semiweekly essays in Newsweek, I believe, for years and his calls for the Fed to act in a certain way, what convinced me to believe in the monetary theory that he is known for was reading a copy of A Monetary History of the United States 1860-1960 by Friedman and Schwartz.

Where is their data set? Where is their analysis of the data? Why has that information been kept secret? Where are the computer programs?

And let me assure you that there are many people who see a vast xxx-wing conspiracy to destroy the value of the dollar, to steal all the wealth that we have, to take over all the property in the world, to drive the US into depression and collapse, all driven by the Fed and Friedman's monetary policy, because Friedman was determined to destroy society as we know it.

If you can't find a couple of papers each year that "prove" that monetary theory per Friedman is false, then you must not be looking. Obviously the economy, the skill or luck of the people pushing the string of monetary policy, and the other factors affecting it are extremely complex, but they are simpler than the environment because the economy is a subset of the environment. The data for the economy on such things as GDP, money supply, velocity are at best crudely measured, but the current monetary theory is the best explanation we have, and as such it provides the best guide for how to construct an monetary policy.

Likewise, anthropomorphic climate change theory which in its simplest terms says that burning fossil fuels is unsustainable for its impact on the environment on which six billion people depend.

It is also unsustainable because fossil fuels will be depleted as well, as the rate they are being consumed exceeds the rate they are being created by at least a 100 million times.

Mankind will absolutely switch to a sustainable economy. The only question is when and how much smaller will the population of the planet be at the end of it?

If you think that the data supporting the theory are so suspect for climate change/global warming, then why don't you have podcast condemning monetary theory as a hoax and calling for a return to a silver-gold standard in order to eliminate inflation and economic cycles, and arguing over whether the proper ratio between gold and silver is 1:15 or 1:16?

Norm writes:

The goal of science must be accuracy and truth, not arriving at some predetermined conclusion.

Once scientists abandon the search for truth and try instead to present results that support some favored conclusion, scientists become priests not scientists. I find this deeply distressing.

I have always wanted to believe that scientists put all their data and methodologies forward for others to review. This is not the case for climate science. It is strange to discover that the answer to the question "How do we know that the Earth is warming" is not simple. Climate scientists try to determine temperature by using dozens of proxies (tree rings, ice cores, seabed cores, etc.) and then running these through complex statistical models to arrive at their conclusions. Data is not made available or is changed, models and methods are not clearly explained, computer code is not provided, but don't worry, the climate scientists assure us, everything is OK, after all some anonymous reviewers for a prestigious journal say so.

I could live with unambiguous scientific evidence for AGW, but the current process sucks. Its clear that certain people desperately want to tell other people how to live. Some of these people are overtly religious and others pretend to be scientists and use what they call science, but the impulse is the same. I am here to save you and its for you own good and if you don't go alone calamity will result.

On a somewhat different tangent, this debate may result in a new method of science that I find intriguing. Instead of scientific results being presented though tightly controlled secretive journals, how about if all publicly funded research is required to archive its data and fully explain methods and procedures so others can review, analyze and extend these. I am thinking of the Wikipedia model extended to scientific research.

Jon writes:

Norm,

There are a couple of journals you might be interested in for the reasons you put forth:

the Journal of Negative Results in Biomedicine
http://www.jnrbm.com/home/

and in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
http://www.jnr-eeb.org/

I think there is some recognition that too often hypothesis-confirming/conforming studies get all the attention.

Schepp writes:

In reading the comments there seems to be some surprise that scientist are placed in the same circumstances that Dictators are placed in. Where there is economic value in saying what is popular or valuable to oneself instead of what is "true" or objective. The next grant or speaking engagement will and always has been a factor in our academics. However; through the moras, people that have stood and found those things closest to the "truth" stand the test of time much better than the followers.

Russ, thank you for a great pod cast as always.

Unit writes:

Two comments:

1. Several words were used to contrast the "equilibrium/static" view, words such as "dynamic", "changing", etc...another word that capture this is "evolution". Of course, there are ways to view evolution as a static phenomenon as soon as one searches for simple laws. Maybe the two aspects are needed and have to be kept simultaneously. I agree that currently there is a bias for immutable laws and less of a feeling for the unexpected.

2. At the end, when Russ asked what we should do to manage nature better (once we agree that it's evolving with us and that we influence it anyways), I got the impression that Botkin is not aware of the progress in economics (Hayek, etc...) which favors decentralized approaches to management over top-down solutions. I could be wrong, but when Botkin said that "we should" move away from fossil fuels and that National Parks and other government organizations "should" be getting more funding, I got the impression that the "top-down/bottom-up" dichotomy still hasn't seeped into the science of ecology.

John S. writes:

As to your concerns about the impact AGW theory will have on the future of science, I suggest you read the book "Good Calories, Bad Calories" by NY Times reporter Gary Taubes. There are a lot of parallels. The idea that fat in the diet leads to heart diesease -- and that to be healthy we should eat more carbohydrates and as little fat as possible -- was for decades the consensus among health professionals, almost an item of religious faith. And yet it is a fraud, directly contradicted by the evidence.

This consensus was manufactured not by greedy corporations out to sell more grain, but by the US federal government and politicians like George McGovern and Henry Waxman. Dissenters were shunned, ignored, or worse, had their funding cut. It's very likely that the increase in obesity among the US public -- and all the health problems associated with it -- is a result of our following the government's bogus recommendations.

I urge you to read Taubes book. Begin with this 2002 article in the NY Times magazine, which the book is apparently based on:

http://tinyurl.com/yqsfm2

The parallels to AGW are striking.

Brian-NJ writes:

Hello, this is my first post to econ talk. I am a new listener and want to share my appreciation to Mr. Roberts for his contributions through these podcasts. I found econ talk on itunes.

While I am not an economist or an ecologist for that matter, I find in depth conversation about any topic which has emotional effects on poorly educated masses a mountain in the midst of a prairie. I include myself in the mass of the ill informed. What I uncover each time I dig deeper(with the help of these podcasts) is that there are many more layers, not unlike the ripples of time, layer upon layer, unending. With so many layers of data, and no cohesive way for transmission to the people who rely on it, there is only one conclusion I can come to.

We know the fuels for energy will end. We know the pollution of current energy makes the communities unlivable. We know the alternatives will come slow to fruition and bear great cost. Change will be forced unto most, if not all since it would need to be a global effort. We also know that the science and facts are debated upon while the signs of deterioration persist. If the "facts" were to be agreed upon by the science and political community as a whole, the awareness and pressure to resolve the questions which we have now would never have appeared. Had the panic button not been pushed, wouldn't we have been behind in the event of a true crisis in human acceleration of global warming? Isn't the risk of a few groups credibility worth the risk for all humanity? I have another analogy to the idea of not buying earthquake insurance because the odds were in Mr. Botkin's favor. The idea would be, let's find a way to secure the existing homes and minimize the damage in the possible return of a quake, but more importantly let's not go through a housing boom in the face of this danger. Meanwhile, with an outcome that proves quakes were not as hazardous as certain data suggests, the possible damage to credibility of those forcing the issue as well as the science community they represent is worth the risk when the alternative would be catastrophic. As long as we continue to live in a world that has benefited greatly by science, it will not be so easily dismissed when one theory proves wrong, which coincidentally frees our society from foreign oil dependency, and created a less polluted, healthier environment for all its citizens.

Personally I support the over saturation of global warming chaos, because it addresses one real issue, one that stares many of us in the face each day. The effects of dirty energy on my fellow countrymen. You cannot go far in NJ without seeing the results of pollution and the hapless victims in the way. Exaggerated claims on the urgency of GW is a wonderful tool to grab the attention of those who don't normally focus on the plight of those polluted, attention which may help the plight. You can't talk about GW without talking about global pollution, and it appears a worthy enough cause for some scientists to inflate their data. If the poor are forced to live with the air, water, and other pollutions, then the worried scientists are just going to have to be forced to live with absurd data coming out on the side of urgent GW crisis. We need to stand together, a strong republic, for the safety of our children, not just because its ethical and moral, but because its economically prudent. Sorry for the rant.

One item I wished was addressed further was Mr. Botkin's opinion and knowledge of the sugar maple. As the discussion touched upon Bonds use of the bat I hoped to hear more on the specific details and causes of the blight upon the sugar maple. Again, thanks for the great podcast and keep up the great work!

"I have only come here seeking nallidge"
-Sting

Tim writes:

Here is an interesting post from an Australian climatologist / climate modeller who has switched to an AGW skeptic position based on recent scientific findings. Interestingly some of his first person commentary supports the "public choice" view of AGW as bureaucratic entrepreneurship.

See here

Brian Schmidt writes:

Tim's link, above, is to my blog. The Australian mathematician David Evans (not a climatologist or climate modeller) who I bet has a guest post there that I invited him to write to explain his skepticism.

If any of the skeptics here think that he's right, I suggest you do the free-market thing and bet me over it, as David has done. You can reach me through my blog.

Al writes:

I'm not an ecologist so my comments may seem naive, but the issue for me isn't whether the environment is static or dynamic - of course it is dynamic. This issue is whether human activity is effecting the rate of change and its direction. Isn't it true that a dynamic equilibrium that evolved over thousands of years must be more predicable and slow moving than a rapid change brought about by human activity? I would point to the introduction of European diseases to the Americas as an example of how rapid change in the natural world brought about by human activity can lead to unforeseen human suffering on a massive scale.

John Seattle writes:

Brian NJ wrote:
“We know the fuels for energy will end. We know the pollution of current energy makes the communities unlivable. We know the alternatives will come slow to fruition and bear great cost.”
++++
As Russ Roberts has pointed out in previous podcasts, can you point to a single time in the history of mankind when mankind has completely depleted a single resource? The truth is that we haven’t and energy will be no different. - - - - Pollution from current energy is not making communities unlivable – I grew up in Southern California in the 50’s and I can assure you that the air pollution at that time was unbearably worse then it is today. I can remember when, on particularly smoggy days, your lungs would hurt if you took a deep breath – that does not happen today – at least in those countries in western civilization. - - - - Alternatives do not come slow and don’t bear great cost (unless those alternatives are forced upon us by government intervention/regulation rather than by the free market). When the free market is allowed to work, it does so with efficiency (certainly more efficiency than government mandates). This should also be the case with alternate forms of energy as well.


Brian NJ also wrote:

"I have another analogy to the idea of not buying earthquake insurance because the odds were in Mr. Botkin's favor. The idea would be, let's find a way to secure the existing homes and minimize the damage in the possible return of a quake, but more importantly let's not go through a housing boom in the face of this danger. Meanwhile, with an outcome that proves quakes were not as hazardous as certain data suggests, the possible damage to credibility of those forcing the issue as well as the science community they represent is worth the risk when the alternative would be catastrophic. As long as we continue to live in a world that has benefited greatly by science, it will not be so easily dismissed when one theory proves wrong, which coincidentally frees our society from foreign oil dependency, and created a less polluted, healthier environment for all its citizens."
++++
Ah yes, but at what cost are you going to impose on the home owner to have his house secured? Are you going to require some sort of retrofit which would cost the “homeowner” 40% of the value of the home? Will you condemn some homes because they can’t be made earthquake secure? What could those dollars otherwise have been spent on instead of securing the house? Regarding not going through a housing boom in the face of the danger of quakes, at what cost does that come to those who wish to own homes who now can’t because we have regulated the growth of housing? (How else would you control a housing boom but with regulation of some sort?). And if the danger was overstated and we find that we needn’t have worried about the devastating earthquakes, then the resources dedicated to that “danger” will have been wasted when they could have been put to a more efficient use. Although it might be easy to dismiss a theory that proves to be wrong when the cost has been minimal, I believe that it will not be so easy to forgive those who proposed a theory that proves to be wrong when the cost of “preparing” for the non-existent threat ends up being oppressive in terms of monetary costs as well as costs to liberty.

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