Professor John Henneberry
Date: Tuesday 10th July 2018
Venue: ICOSS Conference Room
Over the last decade there has developed an industry that values different aspects of nature in different ways. Its growth has been underpinned by the argument that, in a neo-liberal world where the market is the dominant mechanism for distributing scarce resources, those assets that cannot be priced and traded are either undervalued or overlooked. Putting a price on nature allows it to be included in the market calculus and, thereby, to be noticed. Moreover, the discipline involved in such an economic practice contributes to more rational – and better – decisions involving nature. This view is reinforced by a culture that puts much trust in numbers. What can be counted generally counts, especially when quanta are expressed in monetary units.
The seminar will consider methods used to value nature and the degree to which they enhance the objectivity and rigour of related decisions. Using illustrative examples, the application of cost benefit analysis to investment in natural assets, the valuation of ecosystem services, and natural capital accounting will be examined. The practical, technical, conceptual and philosophical challenges involved in their use will be explored. How is nature qualified and quantified, and then subjected to calculation and valuation by these techniques? And how might these practices affect nature and our perception of it?
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