Dr. Clam said...
Rereading your post reminds me- have you read Jared Diamond's "Collapse: How Societies Chose to Succeed or Fail" yet? Apparently both the Easter Islanders and the Norse colonists on Greenland began their precipitous slides toward disaster when they allowed banana imports from overseas. Amazing but true!
Hence the term "Banana Republic" resonates true :). I kind of want to read the book, but I fear it is absolutely great on accurate history and makes grand points about the environment, but fails to abstract a technical theory from it. I feel that to apply what we learn from distinct (separate) cases from history, we have to abstract mathematical models (or at least game theory models) that explain what is happening. It is of absolutely no consequence if the author allows the reader to come to whatever conclusion they like such as - "That means we've got to stop killing whales, right?" or some general environmental platitude like: Lets dramatically subsidise renewable energy.
Without even reading the various examples in the book, I still think they correlate closely to the "tragedy of the commons". Game theory can be used to simulate those examples - then similarities can be compared to the modern world to see if certain fish stocks are going to become extinct, whether pollution is destined to keep increasing, whether drought in Africa is going to cause mass famine etc. EnviroGeometeorologists can predict future temperature rises all they like, but have they even thought of applying game theory to see how the reactions and/or competitive pressure and fears of disaster change the likely future. In a few short years, the world seems to have gone from a free for all for using resources as economy dictates, to a fractured world where fear in some has completely changed the resource economies, while the relatively resource poor have continued to demand them.