Economics and ecological disasters in the Philippines

Michael Mandel

I don't do as much environmental economics as I should, but I was really horrified by the February 17 mudslide in the Philippines which killed as many as 1800 people. It's easy enough to treat it like a natural disaster, but there's a sense in which this mudslide, as well as a 1991 mudslide which killed 6000 people, are the consequence of past economic development policies that encouraged overlogging. That's according to Barbara Goldoftas, who recently published a book called Green Tiger: The Costs of Ecological Decline in the Philippines ( from Oxford University Press). [Conflict of interest alert: Barbara is a friend of mine, and I read early versions of the book].

Are such disasters an inevitable part of the industrialization process? Or is it possible to choose a development path which is not so short-sighted? I wonder.

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