Successful Land Conservation: Neither Zero-Sum nor Win-Win
Beyond Zero-Sum Environmentalism (eds. Sarah Krakoff, Melissa Powers, & Jonathan Rosenbloom 2019)
20 Pages Posted: 24 Mar 2020
Date Written: 2019
Policymakers and economists have found game theory helpful in decision-making regarding natural resources and other practical problems. Not only do policymakers draw upon some of the underlying economic theories, but they also adopt language and framing from economics. In some cases, such framing can be helpful. However, in many situations policymakers and others adopt the terms and general guidelines of game theory without fully understanding the assumptions underlying the concepts and neglecting an evaluation of whether the terms fit the circumstance. They take terms developed in simplified scenarios with few players and minimal external forces and use the concepts when constructing policy. Such is the case with the terms zero-sum and win-win. This Chapter examines the use of zero-sum concepts in land conservation policy, outlining some examples in the context of game theory and as a rhetorical device. I highlight where and how the concept is used and then provide examples of why it is generally a mischaracterization of land conservation strategies and decision-making. In a direct contrast to zero-sum scenarios, conservationists and others have suggested we frame land conservation efforts as win-win projects. The oversimplistic framing of both strategies fits poorly in the land conservation context and is not helpful in policymaking. Such phrases may sound good in speeches, but the world is a more complex place than these sound bites would have us believe.
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