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October 4, 2011 / bjh3ev

Assignment 02: The Bay Game

This past week in lecture we participated in the ‘UVA Bay Game,’ a model developed by professors across the University’s departments that demonstrates the effect that our actions have on the health of the Chesapeake Bay. We posed as Land Developers, Watermen, Agriculture Farmers, Cattle Farmers, and Government Regulators to reenact the life of the Bay and see how different choices and scenarios would have an effect.

I was assigned the role of ‘Dairy Cattle Farmer’ in the James watershed. I had three options to select each game. First, chosen distinctly each turn, whether I wanted to engage in conventional or sustainable farming methods. Second, a one-time upgrade, if I wanted to upgrade from basic waste treatment to covered storage, then another one-time upgrade, to nutrient removal. And third, if I wanted to purchase any additional cattle, with a limiting maximum number.

Diagram the system including environmental processes, the role of decision makers, and interactions that you see as critical to two basic indicators of Bay Health, the levels of nitrogen and phosphorus.

Describe an experience you had during the game play that led to a new insight about the system or a deeper understanding of the processes at work.

Throughout the game I was discussing the choices I made with the Beef Cattle Farmer sitting next to me; we were trying to see who could make the most money since we started off at very similar points. We happened to make exactly opposite decisions at the beginning–I chose to start sustainable farming immediately while she stayed conventional but upgraded her waste removal. A few turns later she switched to sustainable and I upgraded my waste removal. At first, because of the incentives that our regulator was offering, I was making significantly more income with the switch to sustainable (instead of the waste upgrade). The surprise came at the end of the game when our incomes had leveled out and we ended up with similar total profits, despite the variance that existed at the beginning of the game. This showed that even though switching to completely sustainable practices might seem not worth the immediate loss to profits, the choice to be sustainable averages itself out due to regulator interference and is completely worth it due to how much it positively impacts the health of the Bay.

Imagine and describe a real-world strategy to improve bay health through behavior change, market strategy, policy, or player choice. How would your idea potentially affect behavior of the economic and environmental models that the game is based on?

The factor that made me keep choosing to utilize sustainable farming and completely upgraded waste removal was the availability of incentives from my regulator. Ours were pretty extreme, so it was actually more¬†financially beneficial to be sustainable than not. It makes sense that in the real world this wouldn’t be able to happen, because the government would just run out of money. However what could influence real farmers to make the switch is if governments offered a lot of incentives at first, then slowly weaned off of them–while still maintaining the point where sustainability wouldn’t become less financially beneficial than non-sustainable.

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