Here at CGC we are all about innovation and ingenuity. However, it’s important to step back and recognize what limits there are to ingenuity. As James Boyce of Resources for the Future says, “There aren’t many substitutes for the relatively untouched expanse of Alaska’s North Slope if what matters to you is its very wilderness.”
In the famous 1970s Ehrlich-Simon wager, economist Julian Simon bet biologist Paul Ehrlich $1,000 that the combined price of five commodity metals would fall over the next decade. Ehrlich lost the bet. Because commodity metals can be traded and sold on a private market, businesses and consumers eagerly sought substitutes for the hard-to extract and finite resources at the center of the Ehrlich-Simon wager and prices fell.
But what about resources that “you don’t eat or mine and you can’t find on any international exchange or market?” What about resources as abstract and sublime as wilderness? How do we find an innovative substitute for that?