Development and enhancement of natural resources are mandatory for the economic and environmental health of a nation. While such resources as minerals or energy are developed locally, their benefits, and the benefits of the development, are dispersed over very large areas. Often, however, development of those resources is fought by limited-interest groups. Because the limited-interest groups are often able to stop or delay development of needed resources, the general public is often denied the resources at reasonable costs. Often a local environment may be "saved" by at a much greater dispersed environmental cost involving large areas and many people. The dispersed benefit riddle is: "When a political entity is evaluating whether or not to develop or improve a resource, how can we as a nation be sure that the dispersed benefits of use of that resource are adequately weighed in the final decision?" Most basic to solving the dispersed benefit riddle is education of the general public, but volume of education is not the answer; the quality of education is most critical. The education must be sufficiently technical so that people understand the relationships among resources, economics, and environmental matters. Difficult though the public education step is, that is only the beginning. Zoning ordinances and laws need to be adjusted so that the broad public interest is more clearly served. And finally, it would be most helpful if the local public, in whose jurisdiction materials are enhanced or extracted, could more clearly benefit from the resource management process. Not solving the dispersed benefit riddle could, in the long run, be damaging to the economics and environments of both the United States and the world.
Ault, C. H., and Woodard, G. S., 1983, Proceedings of 18th Forum on Geology of Industrial Minerals: Indiana Geological Survey Occasional Paper 37, 251 p., 121 figs., 36 tables.
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