Friday, July 19, 2013

#200 / Nature's Price Tag

Next Thursday, July 25th, Larry Goulder, Professor of Environmental and Resource Economics at Stanford University, and Tony Juniper, Associate Professor in the University of Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership, and a Special Advisor to The Prince of Wales International Sustainability Unit, will be making a presentation at The Commonwealth Club, in San Francisco. The title of their presentation is, "Nature's Price Tag." Acterra, an environmental group based in Palo Alto, has endorsed the event. I found about the event from an Acterra alert. If you would like to attend, you can get a ticket right here

The presentation next Thursday is going to explore the topic of "ecosystem services." The basic idea is that the natural processes that sustain the World of Nature can be (and should be) valued in human economic terms. Clean watersheds are valuable for humans, in other words, so let's put a price on that! 

While the idea is that we will better appreciate Nature when we understand it in terms of human economic value, I am skeptical about the usefulness of the "ecosystem services" concept. The premise seems to be that what really counts is our human world, and that the World of Nature should be valued to the extent the Natural World can be demonstrated to be useful in terms of our human projects. 

The observation that "Man is the measure of all things" has been attributed to the Greek philosopher Protagorus. Plato called him a "sophist." 

Using "man" as the sole measure of value does seem to fit the definition of "sophistry," as I understand it. The Merriam Webster online dictionary says that "sophistry" is "subtly deceptive reasoning or argumentation."

That sums up my thought about valuing Nature in terms of human economics. 

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