MANAGING NATURE RESOURCES: A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH
Gifford, R., University of Victoria, Canada
About 167 years ago, William Lloyd pointed out a flaw in Adam Smith's reasoning. Smith, quite naturally at the time of writing The Wealth of Nations (1776), based his economic theory on the assumption that natural resources were essentially unlimited. Thus, it was acceptable, even admirable, for entrepreneurs to use them at will to create wealth, because these entrepreneurs would then be guided by an "invisible hand" to benefit others in society. We know well now that at least some natural resources are not unlimited. I have credited Lloyd with considerable foresight in noticing that natural resources were limited such a long time ago. However, people already had been fighting over limited natural resources for a long time before Lloyd made his point. In the Middle East, battles over water are thousands of years old. Today's natural resource struggles are over oil, fish, and trees, as well as water. The ancient legacy of war and armed conflict over water could well be repeated, in fact have been repeated, as sources of fish, oil, and trees recede. Thus, cooperation in the use and management of natural resources is not a mere academic parlour game; it is of vital importance in the real world of politics and war. Lives depend on finding ways of sharing natural resources in equitable ways. In this talk, I reflect on some possible avenues toward a peaceful and equitable resolution of the problem.