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Valuing space—literally, in currency
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Buy and sell ecology?
Ecological resources are impacted, most often negatively, by all things that industrial society does, yet these resources are not counted financially. Instead, they are treated economically as infinite and free. When an asset is consumed, then its lost value should show in the negative column on someone’s balance sheet.Economists say that these losses of ecological resources are externalized, i.e., they are off the books—and this is, frankly, dishonest bookkeeping. When an asset is used, then its lost value should show on someone’s balance sheet. Long-term preservation of nature will be most successful if natural resources are part of the economy.Our contention is that long-term preservation of nature will be most successful if natural resources are part of the economy. When ecological resources are brought into the economy, then they take on quantified financial value, and those who cause resource consumption—including space consumption—cannot hide from their causation of resource loss.
Services provided by ecosystems are pervasive and extremely expensive to replace, so preservation of ecosystem functions is a long term benefit to the overall economy. More importantly, the species that make up ecosystems comprise biological, genetic, and biochemical resources that are dependent on the health of the ecosystem; some of these resources will benefit us in future ways, as yet unknown1. In most terrestrial (land) ecosystems, uninterrupted space is need for continuing proper ecosystem functioning. The ideas presented here, if implemented, would bring uninterrupted space into the economy in a way that would provide the space that ecosystems need. This may be a potent first step in implementing economic accounting that is ecologically honest.
1 The compelling case for preservation of ecosystems and all their lifeforms is eloquently laid out by Edward O. Wilson in his book Half Earth. Dr. Wilson quite credibly makes the case that the future benefits to humans of earth’s ecosystems are, in fact, invaluable—if for no other reason than an earth without flourishing ecosystems would be an uninspiring wasteland—and that far greater public investment should be made in ecological preservation and study.