The Value of a River? Ghost Language.

When speaking with people we need to use "people logic;" when speaking with "ghosts" we need to use "ghost logic."1

While maintaining reservations on the appropriateness of quantifying anything in nature, we need to accept the fact that most people, as is the case with most individuals of all other species, seem only able to view things from their own perspective—anthropocentrically.

This is a fact, albeit a fact that has gotten the human species into a fair bit of trouble during the past 10,000 years or so following the adoption of totalitarian agriculture, gathering in cities, and embarking on a journey where the meaning of life is increasingly defined by a minority of people whose social and environmental attention span is that of a quarterly or annual budget period, a five year plan, or a politician's term of office—or shorter.

Karl Flessa, a professor of geosciences at the University of Arizona has done a very interesting and revealing study on the value of the Colorado River and the "losses" caused by its damming. Following the work of Robert Constanza, et. al., he has shown through the language of "ghosts" (insatiable economists and their beneficiaries), how perhaps we human economic experts really don't know that much about economics, value, costs, and the rest of the natural world.

Professor Flessa has kindly agreed to permit Wild at Heart to reproduce his original and follow up presentations and to translate them into Chinese. We have been busily alerting many people in the Taiwan's public and private sectors of Constanza and Flessa's work in the hope that some of our own people will begin to calculate the true costs of short term development. One professor at Academia Sinica has expressed interest and is looking at using these models to develop more information on the area of Taiwan's Jhuoshui River where the construction of a dam is imminent.

If there are any volunteers out there who would like to join this or other similar projects we would love to hear from you.

If you are interested in more, you might also like to check out the new Chinese translation of Paul Hawken's classic, The Ecology of Commerce, published by Third Nature Publishers, Taiwan, as the first book in its "Wild at Heart Series" of basic books.

1For a little more explanation on the use of this term from Buddhism, please see Derrick Jensen's essay, which can also be read on his Web site.