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Economic Profitability versus Ecological Entropy

Martin L. Weitzman
The Quarterly Journal of Economics
Vol. 115, No. 1 (Feb., 2000), pp. 237-263
Published by: Oxford University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2586940
Page Count: 27
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Economic Profitability versus Ecological Entropy
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Abstract

There is a long-standing trade-off in bioculture between concentrating on high-yield varieties and maintaining sufficient diversity to lower the risks of catastrophic infection. The paper uses a simple ecology-based model of endogenous disease to indicate how a local decision to plant more of a widely grown crop creates negative externalities by increasing the probability that new pathogens will evolve to attack the crop globally. Society's basic issue concerns where to locate on an efficiency frontier between economic profitability and a standard formula for ecological entropy-proved here to be a rigorous measure of "generalized resistance" to crop-ecosystem failure.

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