By Diana Weinhold
Academic research on land use and deforestation generally tries to uncover the underlying reasons for people’s and companies’ actions on the environment. For example, academics may investigate the impact of road building on agricultural expansion, how property rights change land clearing, or how agricultural labor supply affects cropping patterns.
Simulation exercises like SimPachamama (whether or not in a ‘game’ form), however, essentially work like thought experiments – if the world worked like this, what would happen if we did that. As such, a simulation cannot answer fundamental questions of causality: what caused what. But what they can do is allow us to consider some possible outcomes of complex interactions between all the factors considered important (see Ben Groom’s piece for more information). In other words, given that academic research has found these causal relationships to be important, how would we expect the economy and environment to evolve over time under different policy choices? The outcomes from such an exercise should thus not be considered a scientific forecast, and presenting the simulation as a game is thus useful for framing the results as what they are – a hypothetical outcome from a hypothetical economy, albeit one based on current academic scholarship. Read More »