Robert Constanza

Can Nature Be Monetized? A Capital Institute Conversation

Capital Institute Forum Series Can Nature Be Monetized?Many members of the Capital Institute community believe that the emerging markets for ecosystem services hold considerable promise as tools for redirecting the flow of capital toward economic activities that honor ecosystem constraints.   However, a paper that recently circulated among us entitled "The Environmentality of 'Earth Incorporated'"  raised some questions that challenge that belief.   The author, Sian Sullivan, argues that the  “intrinsic fallacy at the heart” of ecosystem services market initiatives is that they attempt to incentivize environmentally ethical behavior.  She maintains that the market does not produce “virtuous behavior” and that it is essentially naïve to take the view that if only we design them correctly we can halt or reverse ecosystem degradation.   She further states that the danger of these market initiatives is that they promote the  “valuing of nature as money,” and do not acknowledge “nature's immanence or sentience,” or the reality that humans are merely one of many “companions” in nature’s community.  Sullivan’s argument might lead one to conclude that efforts to save our fragile ecosystems should be focused more on shifting humanity’s view of its place in the natural order rather than harnessing the financial markets to restore that natural order.

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