I have mixed feelings about the tone of this article…what do you think?
The government argues that without a price, the living world is accorded no value, so irrational decisions are made. By costing nature, you ensure that it commands the investment and protection that other forms of capital attract. This thinking is based on a series of extraordinary misconceptions. Even the name reveals a confusion: natural capital is a contradiction in terms. Capital is properly understood as the human-made segment of wealth that is deployed in production to create further financial returns. Concepts such as natural capital, human capital or social capital can be used as metaphors or analogies, though even these are misleading. But the 25-year plan defines natural capital as “the air, water, soil and ecosystems that support all forms of life”. In other words, nature is capital. In reality, natural wealth and human-made capital are neither comparable nor interchangeable. If the soil is washed off the land, we cannot grow crops on a bed of derivatives.
A similar fallacy applies to price. Unless something is redeemable for money, a pound or dollar sign placed in front of it is senseless: price represents an expectation of payment, in accordance with market rates. In pricing a river, a landscape or an ecosystem, either you are lining it up for sale, in which case the exercise is sinister, or you are not, in which case it is meaningless.
Still more deluded is the expectation that we can defend the living world through the mindset that’s destroying it. The notions that nature exists to serve us; that its value consists of the instrumental benefits we can extract; that this value can be measured in cash terms; and that what can’t be measured does not matter, have proved lethal to the rest of life on Earth. The way we name things and think about them – in other words the mental frames we use – helps determine the way we treat them.
I have read the exerpt above, but not the whole article (disclaimer), BUT:
“The notions that nature exists to serve us; that its value consists of the instrumental benefits we can extract; that this value can be measured in cash terms; and that what can’t be measured does not matter, have proved lethal to the rest of life on Earth”
I also have bad feelings by assigning monetary value to nature, BUT as long as capitalism reigns supreme and corporations are legally people, money is the only thing that will protect any natural resource. For instance, a company that primarily profits from hunting and fishing gear will go out of business if there are no more animals to hunt and fish—meaning healthy environments and stable populations of animals have a tangible monetary value.
Did you know, in the 1930’s, white-tailed deer almost went extinct, and Canada geese were thought to be extinct? [link] These species were overhunted to extreme limits, but when people woke up and realized nature is not infinite, measures were taken to help populations recover so that hunting them was sustainable.
Specifically, the Pittman-Robertson Act of 1937 [link] was enacted to tax handgun, ammunition, and hunting/fishing licenses, with 100% of the taxes going to fund conservation programs run by each of the states. It went very well and is responsible for bringing back many of the game species which were on the brink of extinction.
But there’s a problem.
Above is the 2017 Texas Parks and Wildlife fiscal year report. [link] The top line, general revenue, is money received from sales tax of sporting goods equipment. The green highlighted line (over 1/3 of total funds) is money received from hunting licenses.
Here are the trends in hunting from the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2016 report [link]:
Basically, people aren’t hunting anymore. So the primary source of funding for conservation work is disappearing. This same report shows that while people aren’t hunting as much, they are still going out into nature for hiking, birdwatching, photography, etc. But right now, none of those activities are economically tied to funding except for park entrance fees.
In short: putting a financial value on wildlife has worked and will work, but you have to do it right. And I’m not sure what “right” is.
May 26, 2018