Environmental Impact: Controlling the Overall Level

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Science  31 Aug 1973:
Vol. 181, Issue 4102, pp. 819-825
DOI: 10.1126/science.181.4102.819


It is suggested that, by assigning to every resource use and activity (including childbirth) that causes environmental impact a price in money-independent units (NRU's), a new system of environmental trade-offs can be established—one which maintains maximum personal choice within overall environmental constraint. The social equality of the system in relation to resource exploitation would be enhanced by distributing NRU rations equally among the population each year. Special means of controlling industrial and organizational use of resources through NRU's are also discussed. The system is believed to offer a more sensitive means of gauging social priorities in relation to resource use than that achieved by an exclusively monetary system. Although involving more planning and more governmental regulation than is currently deemed feasible or acceptable, we believe the mechanism would lead to less restriction of personal freedom in a steady-state society than would the current trend toward unsystematic imposition of governmental regulations.