Sunday, April 10, 2011

Protect Nature: Put a price tag on it

A reminder that it's not money but the love of money that's the root of all evil. I'm sometimes dismissed as being entirely focused on money when the reality is that prices are only a way to evaluate tradeoffs and scarcity. By reducing things to abstract values, we may end up undervaluing them - and that's the case this article makes. From the Boston Globe:

In the United States, China, Costa Rica, and elsewhere, governments have opted to fund the preservation of forests, watersheds, and other ecosystems — and not because, or not only because, of their beauty. The primary impetus, rather, is the “services” they provide, including air and water purification, carbon sequestration, flood control, and drought prevention. The World Bank has sponsored numerous relevant projects, and a Stanford-based initiative, the Natural Capital Project, draws together environmental organizations and academics to advance and implement the idea.

And yet, for all of the obvious appeal of this approach to green types, there are serious concerns about translating ecological value into dollars and cents. Commodifying nature offends the sensibilities of some environmentalists, who believe we should prize it for its intrinsic worth, and for ethical and historical reasons. If we appraise nature only for the “services” it provides to humans, could that lead to an overly anthropocentric ethos that jettisons any elements that do not obviously accrue to our benefit?
Read the whole thing. More discussion at Hacker News.

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