Unintended Consequences – Good Ideas don’t always pan out

My favorite examples of unintended consequences is called the “Cobra Effect.”

So the “cobra effect” refers to a scheme in colonial India where the British governor, or whoever, the person in charge in Delhi, wanted to rid Delhi of cobras. Apparently in his opinion there were too many cobras in Delhi. So he had the bounty placed on cobras. And he expected this would solve the problem. But the population in Delhi, at least some of it, responded by farming cobras. And all of a sudden the administration was getting too many cobra skins. And they decided the scheme wasn’t as smart as initially it appeared and they rescinded the scheme. But by then the cobra farmers had this little population of cobras to deal with. And what do you do if there’s no market? You just release them. And so this significantly, by a few orders of magnitude, worsened the cobra menace in Delhi.

I strongly believe that technology will help us get out our messes with the environment.  Nature’s great blog just recently profiled 10 Unexpected Impacts of Climate Change.  My biggest fear is that we unleash the next “cobra effect” by looking for the fast and easy solution.

Fighting climate change does not happen overnight.  It requires big societal changes that happen little by little.  Great change happens incrementally.  The environmental movement started with recycling.  Then it led to the hybrid cars.  What happens next is up to you.

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