Should we put a value on Nature?

Is valuation an important institution to engender change in the way our society responds to nature?

First, valuation can serve as a tool for self-reflection… helping us rethink our relationship with the natural world, and alerting us to the consequences of our choices and behaviours on distant places and people…

Second, we cannot but recognize the all-pervasiveness of economic valuation… Abstaining from explicit valuation… often amounts to no more than an acceptance of someone else’s implicit valuation—trade-offs are then made on the basis of that implicit economic valuation.

Last, so deep-seated and widespread is modern society’s inherent market-centric mindset (and our almost unequivocal association of ‘price’ with ‘value’) that the mere device of demonstrating economic value for the public wealth that nature delivers can itself become an important strategy for the change we seek. The construction of ‘shadow prices’ for public goods and services can take on a life beyond the quiet workspaces of academic research and enter the turbulent halls of public policy debate…

…the alternative is in fact ethically worse: to permit the continued absence of prices to seep even further into human consciousness and behaviour as a ‘zero’ price, and thus no value.

– Pavan Sukhdev (2010)
In: The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity:
Ecological and Economic Foundations
Pp. xxii — xxiii

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