Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Over the last decade, an increasingly robust interdisciplinary literature has developed to guide policymakers in managing worstcase scenarios--catastrophes, natural hazards, disasters, and ecological collapse. As of yet, however, there is no reciprocal literature for the opposite of such catastrophic risk: for regulating and managing phenomena that expose society to the possibility of "wonders" or "miracles": extreme-upside events, such as might result from geoengineering, an effective COVID vaccine, successfully colonizing other planets, eradicating mosquito-borne illnesses, curing cancer, or implementing other socially or environmentally transformational new technologies. A careful comparison of the policy implications of extreme-upside outcomes with extreme-downside outcomes suggests at least a partial explanation for the asymmetric attention to extreme-downside events: psychological phenomena like loss aversion lead to greater attention to, and care for, what are perceived as potential extreme losses than for concomitant extreme gains. Unfortunately, while understandable, this asymmetric focus on perceived losses may also generate unnecessary and even counterproductive despair, while simultaneously obscuring extraordinary opportunities for improving social welfare and environmental quality, and for using law and policy to achieve wonderful outcomes.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1105-1172
Number of pages68
JournalEnvironmental Law (00462276)
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2020


  • Mosquito vectors
  • Green technology
  • COVID-19 vaccines
  • COVID-19 pandemic
  • environmental law
  • positive psychology
  • best-case scenarios
  • worst-case scenarios
  • disaster
  • catastrophe
  • extreme impacts
  • loss aversion
  • natural hazard
  • risk regulation
  • extreme-upside
  • fat tails


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