Nature undoubtedly plays a massive role in our daily lives, every item created, has to essentially come from nature. However, since the era of industrialization, there has been an invisible veil that separates consumers, from the processes of production. Thus, creating an even deeper separation of nature and our commodities. This separation has led to a degradation without consequences, as our world is run by economical standards such as GDP, that leave nature, our main provider out of the conversation. Seeking to be more inclusive of the natural world in an environmental sphere, different discourses have erected that place nature within the context of economics. The method to do so is placing a monetary value on nature. This is a step towards creating awareness of the role of nature in our production systems, and including the environmental damage on economical externality analysis.
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One of the discourse that place nature within an economical context is the environmental policy discourse from whom the use of economics terminology of natural aspect derives (Coffey, 2015). Some of this terminology deems essential to the understanding of the way nature puts a value in monetary terms. One of those terms is natural capital. Which is essentially the part of nature that produces goods and services (Costanza et al., 1997). Another term is ecosystem services, which ”consist of the flow of materials, energy and information from natural capital stocks which combine with manufactured and human capital services to produce human welfare”(Costanza et al., 1997).
Furthermore, in order to value nature in monetary terms, there is a specific framework. This framework derives from the term of ecosystem services. Ecosystem Services can be divided in use value and non-use value. Use value is the benefits that come from directly using the tangible environment and non –use value, on the other hand, are the benefits that come from indirectly from the environment(Vardakoulias, 2013).
Then, base of this framework, specialist rely on two methods: revealed preference methods and stated preference method. Revealed preference method: is evaluated through market data and human behavior to reveal environmental choices. The stated preference method: uses questionnaires to reveal environmental choices (Vardakoulias, 2013)
The payment for ecosystem services is already a method, which has been proven to function in places such as Costa Rica, where “the government has paid private landowners to protect forests; this has helped to increase forest cover dramatically, conserve wild species and regulate river flows”. (Kenner, 2014)This method has already been proven to aid in the conservation of ecosystems,
On one side, some argue that putting a dollar value to the environment doesn’t fully show it’s value (Hamilton, 2015). Although, I agree it doesn’t fully represent the value, it has the function of creating a more tangible approach to what is valued in our world today. In the world we live, we give value to goods and money; that does come from nature, but, as I said before, there is an invisible veil that separates us. Thus, using a monetary value, serves to present nature in a way that is consistent with what is valued (money and nature). Inevitable, based on your background, your knowledge and your beliefs, your take of the environment might defer to some else. Therefore, using a monetary value speaks the language of a world reign by politics and economics: money.
Regardless, it is important to acknowledge that the value place on nature, whether monetary or intrinsic, is highly dependable on the stakeholders because of the methodology they choose to use (Kenner, 2014), and thus which stakeholders’ value is more important than the other.
As I stated before, I believe it is a useful tool, however, it shouldn’t be the norm. Because putting a value on nature, first, it excludes the intrinsic value nature has on it’s own. Second, it begs the question of what ecosystem has more value than the other one and what are the standards for this. Third, the reason to put a value is because it is being destroyed, but, not all the destruction can be undone, how do we factor that in numbers. Finally, there’s also the idea that if without nature, there would be no human life, thus its value is infinite (Costanza et al., 2014). Ideally, the value of nature should be an intrinsic feeling shared by us becomes of our interdependability with it. But, activists, who have at some times gained some attention, but not enough, have previously performed these attempts. Inherently, without a new framing, degradation is inevitable.
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My answer to the main question of: are efforts to ‘value’ nature in monetary terms a waste of time and money? Is no. Because, I believe that the idea behind putting a monetary value to nature, potential serves the purpose of creating a conscience of conserving it. Knowing that, to keep the flow of goods that are brought from nature. As any other industry, nature has to be invested in. Especially because there is already a significant amount of ecosystems impacted by human and we must take care of it.
- Coffey, B. (2015). Unpacking the politics of natural capital and economic metaphors in environmental policy discourse. Environmental Politics, 25(2), 1-20.
- Costanza, R., D’Arge, R., De Groot, R., Farber, S., Grasso, M., Hannon, B., . . . Van Den Belt, M. (1997). The value of the world’s ecosystem services and natural capital. Nature, 387(6630), 253-260.
- Costanza, R., de Groot, R., Sutton, P., van Der Ploeg, S., Anderson, S. J., Kubiszewski, I., . . . Turner, R. K. (2014). Changes in the global value of ecosystem services. Global Environmental Change, 26(1), 152-158.
- Hamilton, C. (2015). The Price of God at Coronation Hill. The Conversation.
- Kenner, D. (2014). Who should value nature? Retrieved from http://whygreeneconomy.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Who-should-value-nature.-Why-Green-Economy.pdf:
- Vardakoulias, O. (2013). Valuing The Environment In Economic Terms. Retrieved from http://www.nefconsulting.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Valuing-the-environment-in-economic-terms-briefing.pdf
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