Posts Tagged ‘biodiversity offsets’

For your consideration:

The recently started Biodiversity Offsets Blog aims to provide an interdisciplinary platform for the information and exchange on Biodiversity Offsets and the Mitigation Hierarchy.

The goal is to mainstream and facilitate the discussion on Biodiversity Offsets. The focus lies on biodiversity offsets as such (not market based instruments or other more general topics). The formerly widespread information shall be brought together to make it easily accessible for a maximum of people and thereby to unite the societal debate with academic findings and practical insights. This includes joining different perspectives (biodiversity offsets are not restricted to the interest of business).
The Biodiversity Offsets Blog combines general information (including an updated list of experts, literature, websites etc.) with frequent blog posts on new articles, scientific papers, political news, offset examples on the ground and so on.
As the platform shall bring people and their expertise together, all those who are interested are encouraged to share their knowledge, views, questions or concerns and help to build a broad information base. Find out more on www.biodiversityoffsets.net.

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George Monbiot’s latest rant against pricing nature is mis-informed to the extent of being counter-productive to environmental protection. His lack of understanding is compounded by his prejudices against economics.

The opening quote by Rousseau is attractive and a view I sympathise with – we are borrowing the planet from future generations. But Monbiot’s interpretation of it is that all property rights are wrong. He’s forgetting they are the basis of the incredibly prosperous society he benefits from living in.

The view that “nature is being valued and commodified so that it can be exchanged for cash” could be more sensibly given as “nature is being valued and commodified so it isn’t ignored and trashed, but instead people are charged for using it, which means they won’t waste it”.

A fundamental misconception is that this valuation/ commodification is akin to ‘privatisation’. It isn’t, privatisation means a change from public ownership (by the government) to private ownership. Trying to identify how valuable something is doesn’t mean you want to change who owns it.

The article then contains a series of other inaccurate statements, such as:

  • Characterising the “rain and the hills and the rivers” as ecosystem services. They are not. Ecosystem services are the processes that take place in these environments and benefit us all (or not if we destroy our hills with overgrazing because we didn’t value all of their services).
  • Suggesting that biodiversity offsets could be used to compensate for damage to ‘a rare meadow’: offsets, as currently proposed in the UK, would not weaken existing protections because ‘rare meadows’ are designated habitats (SSSIs) which can be classified as ‘not offsetable’.
  • Suggesting that a landscape’s “intrinsic value has already been calculated”: this is an oxymoron. As an environmental economist I recognise that nature has intrinsic value, and furthermore that this is a moral value, not one based on human preferences or measured by money (what environmental economics aims to value based on human preferences is change – the extra benefit provided by protecting the environment and the extra cost of destruction).

The environmental movement needs passionate and articulate leaders, like George Monbiot can be. But leaders need to have their facts straight; if not they will undermine the very cause they are trying to promote.

Like George, I am suspicious of the motivations of the city, and yes, these powerful economic forces, with nature valued at zero, have brought about its destruction. If we abandon the market economy, we need an alternative: can’t think of one? Neither can I. So my suggestion is that we redirect this powerful human force, the market economy, towards saving nature.

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