Monetisation of nature – UK National Ecosystem Assessment

In response to the UK National Ecosystem Assessment (published yesterday), George Monbiot argues that the monetisation of nature is a definitive neoliberal triumph.

His criticism of the valuation of ecosystem services as “pure reductionist gobbledegook;” or “an almost comical attempt to force both nature and human emotion into a linear, mechanistic vision;” is a little harsh… and takes the bigger picture goals of ecosystem services out of focus. That said, he highlights the business lobbyist bias, criticizing the at-times illogical assumptions of the costing system. “So, for example, it says the market price of an hour spent travelling in a taxi is £45, but the price of an hour spent travelling by bicycle is just £17, because cyclists tend to be poorer than taxi passengers.” Entertaining read anyways.

Working in a development context, I’ve generally looked at the valuation of ecosystem services as a means of poverty alleviation. Take a look at this post by Garry Peterson for a comprehensive overview of some of the challenges researchers are facing regarding Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA).

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Such a different development context

The poverty in rural central Asia is so different than the poverty I witnessed in rural Madagascar.  Sure, this area of the world deals with an array of other problems, not least of which is the opium trade or the vulnerability to extremism.  And I’m not so naïve as to compare a rural with an urban context.  But the basic infrastructure which exists here surpasses anything that I saw in mid-sized African or Indian towns.  I think the largest difference is the low population density.  Despite a growth rate of over 300 % in some regions of the Pamirs, the population density is still very low (3.5 per km2).

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