The other day I attended a talk that used the following model to make a point about cumulative outcomes. It is a simplistic approach but makes a good point and has value for pointing out how to discern matters in a complex system. Here is the end point " The culumative outcome of many decisions within a dynamic system will be dominated by the most irreversible tendencies within human actions regardless of the values people hold" From David A Bella 2006 Legacy Salmon 2010 - the future of wild pacific salmon. Editor Robert Lackey American Fisheries Society. I hope I have the reference correct since I wrote is quickly.
Anyway here is the idea. Assume a decision process involving many people flipping coins. Each flip represents a decision. When it comes up heads the decision involves the technological development of some natural resource. If tails the resource involves protection of some natural system. So technological would be a mine and natural system may be a salmon stream or old growth forest. So each decision involves equal value - 50/50 when you flip.
Now look at the culumative outcomes of all coin tossing over a long time span. Here is the rub. When the coin comes up heads the decision is irreversible - the salmon stream or old growth forest is lost. In contrast, the tail decision is open to more coin tosses. Again, when looking at each decision individually one has a 50/50 value system. Most people on an individual decision would say they are for the environment and development.
Next, have a group of people flip their coin. All those with heads sit down. Next keep flipping and those with heads sit down each time. It will be less than a few flips and everyone will be sitting down. The value for each decision was equal but the culumative outcome will not reflect that value system. Through many unbiased coin tosses, we approach a world where the "heads up" development decisions, not reversible, gradually but steadily increase in number.
That is, we approach a world of pervasive technological development where wild salmon have no place, not a world where wild salmon can survive and thrive.
So what is the answer to this - natural resource protection needs to be irreversible. Thus the position of environmental groups and others to protect ANWR, Bristol Bay Salmon, the UCI salmon streams.... The importance of maintaining these natural areas in an irreversible natural state is to balance the culumative outcome model that appears to give equal value to natural resources and develpment in the above case. We can debate the ratio but right now technicalogical development culmulative outcomes are taking us in Alaska to an end point we may not want.
Thus in anwser to those that want to try and have their cake and eat it--- the bottom line is that does not work and has not worked in the lower 48 with salmon and thus it is a failed system - some natural systems just need to be left natural forever.
Having worked in this field for years I always am amazed that non-biologists keep thinking we can restore systems to some natural productive state. The American Fisheries Society knows this is not true. The first rule for habitat protection is to stop the offending actions. At the conference I was at the restoration efforts in Washington State , not counting dams, is about 2 billion dollars over the last decade. With dams it is 7-10 billion dollars.
Anyway, as we discuss Pebble and other projects keep in mind the culumative outcome model and what areas should be protected forever.