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The survival of cheetah's cubs is very low as only 10% of cubs reach adulthood (Image by Carole Henderson from Pixabay)

To Value or Not to Value Nature

By David Okul

The idea of putting a price on nature is controversial.

The major argument is that nature has an intrinsic value and valuation turns the natural world into a subsidiary of the corporate economy. As such, the proponents of intrinsic value of nature argue that there is no need of putting a price on nature, as it has its own rights independent of human use.

Additionally, some argue that putting monetary value on biodiversity implies that it can be divisible into smaller parts. There is a danger of financialization of nature in large open markets. Many entrepreneurs are seeing potential profits in marketization of nature and are supporting for their development.

Pricing natural assets could also imply that they could be substitutable for other products elsewhere. Many natural assets are not fungible and could not be substituted for other assets. Unlike capital in finance, we cannot invest, borrow, or spend natural capital. The treatment of natural assets as capital could be catastrophic for nature.

Some aspects of the natural environment are harder to quantify than others. For instance, valuing cultural value is notoriously difficult. Supporting services are also hard to quantify. Conversely, for provisional services, simple market values can be determined.

The question remains, is it better to put an imperfect quantification on nature, or continue BAU that regard natural world as valueless?

This is a very tough debate, but my personal opinion is that since the globe is increasingly capitalistic, nature should be valued and integrated in the contemporary capitalist system.

David Okul is an environmental management professional with over 15 years experience on donor projects, conservation, forestry, ecotourism, and community-based natural resources management. When not working on environmental projects, he writes for Silvica on various topics. This blog’s views are personal and do not represent the organizations he is associated with.