Tuesday, 5 August 2008

How Much is Nature Worth?

It really is true that sometimes the only value people understand is the value of money. In a bid to get the most out of on this, specialist economists from all over the world work to place a monetary “value” to some of the natural beauty that surrounds us.

Let me give you an example. It seems that in the past the warnings given by desperate conservationists were enough to instigate a proper look at the damage we are making to the Great Barrier Reef. That is until the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) explained that the Reef’s value in tourism alone is in the region of $3.5 billion and the reef components are worth something like $1.4 billion. This, in essence, puts all conservation projects in perspective and helps state and private investors understand that conservation costs are only a fraction of what the item being conserved is worth.

Of course we also know that it isn’t just about money, an ecosystem as varied and complex as the Reef is essential to all life in the area. 500 million people live within 100 kilometres of coral reefs, many of whom rely on them (and the services they provide) for daily subsistence.

This trend of categorising natural treasures in monetary value does of course carry the inherent danger that one day we might be faced with making difficult choices over what gets conserved and what doesn’t. This kind of capitalistic approach might direct us to save something over something else purely because of the costs involved. On the other hand, it is working wonders in helping to explain the value of the environment to the world, and as a result it makes a welcomed addition to the conservationist’s arsenal.

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