Habitat Destruction: Coral Reefs

I am the Neg for Habitat Destruction: Coral Reefs. I am having a hard time finding enough Harms, Inherency, and Solvency cards. Where can I find excellent sources for all these Stock Issues? Thank you for your help.

Thank you for your question to Ask the Debate Coach, a web page feature of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy--Michigan's leading educational organization for sound economics. My name is Greg Rehmke and I am a member of the Mackinac Center's Board of Scholars.

For research on habitat destruction of coral reefs I recommend you do a google search for "coral reefs and property rights." You will find lots of harms. Reefs are like forests under the sea. When they are destroyed the fish that depend upon them, like the forest animals on land, cannot survive.

One study that comes up is excerpted below. They key is that people are very poor in places like Indonesia. They don't view coral reefs as wealthy American tourists and scuba divers do--that is, as something beautiful to look at. Instead, as most poor people do, they see the environment around them as a source of resources to extract in order to feed themselves and their families.

So poverty is a key part of the problem with habitat destruction. Most coral reefs are common property, that is they are owned by everyone (the government) and therefore by no one. Government officials are charged with protecting them. But for whom? For wealthy Americans and Europeans who want to know that they are pristine, or who want to visit and see them?

Actually eco-tourism, though not perfect, is much less destructive for the reefs, but that requires an infrastructure of ports, roads, and hotels to house tourists. Tourism generates money and jobs and is an alternative to destructive mining and fishing practices.

So the article discusses establishing property rights to reefs, so that the nearby village that would benefit from tourism has the legal right to exclude destructive resource-extraction from "their reefs."

The key negative position, in my opinion, is that most of the affirmative approaches to dealing with the loss of reefs in poor countries won't work and are unfair to the very poor people in the area. Top-down systems of using government force to protect reefs just drives the destruction "underground" and makes the poor miners and fishers into criminals who have to bribe government officials to make a living.

Greg Rehmke
Economic Thinking