Nature and Environment

Because at 160,000 years, the party is just getting started.

Add to My MSN

Putting a Price on the Environment

4/16/2013 1:20:00 PM

Tags: conservation, land ethics, stewardship, Lindsay McNamara

On Public Lands Day last year, my friend and I spent some time in a state park. As we walked through the woods, a few female Mallard ducks flew over the creek. We found a few large spiders in vernal ponds and a grasshopper jumping around through the weeds. We could not, however, identify a certain type of frog that was present on the trail we were hiking. The frogs were scattered throughout the trail; we could hear them. My friend and I would identify where we thought the sound was coming from in the wet grass and then run our hands over the area, pull back the plants; we even stepped carefully around the area to try to scare the frog into our sight. The elusive amphibians were too sneaky for us. I became frustrated and said, “Whatever. It’s not like it’s that important anyway.” My friend, being a bit more patient than I am, responded, “I’d still like to know what it is though. I still want to know what’s around us.”

He was right. We should still know what is around us. We should connect with our living, active surroundings.

In one of my college classes, we discussed value using the differences between wealth and income. In an international human rights course I had taken, we reviewed ways that humans have assigned monetary value to other humans and likened them to property. How should we assign value to the environment to promote conservation, if at all? Is it moral to do so? Cost and benefit analysis of certain practices, like clear cutting, sometimes encouraging conservation, but oftentimes do not. The benefits of short-term profits gain seem to take precedent over long-term, ecologically-conscious choices that foster stable economic growth.

So, how do we best protect the frog in the park that could not be seen?

Robert Costanza, of Maryland’s Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, has stated that, “A resource can be driven to extinction before the market even realizes it was there” (Wennersten 195). Perhaps a large number of our unidentified amphibians have lost their habitats to commercial development and suburban sprawl. The thought of losing a species without even knowing it existed in the first place is startling.

The environment should be given some sort of value, but it is risky since, defining the environment in solely economic terms can lead to more of the same destructive, profit-motivated behaviors. This is because ecosystems services are often grossly undervalued, if a price for the service is reached at all. How can one put a dollar amount on the value of shade from a tree, carbon dioxide sequestration of forests, storm-water mitigation from wetlands and marshes? Who are the players and stakeholders deciding these figures? Are the figures standardized with the measures of other agencies? There are so many questions for this challenging and controversial method. Oftentimes, if values are assigned to certain practices at all, developers and corporations will chose to clear cut a forest instead of completing sustainable harvesting practices because clear cutting will yield short term profits, instead of long term stable economic growth.

Transitioning to a new social consciousness and land stewardship is vital. We should try to live life and prosper in ways based upon love of place and devotion to the land, not destruction of the land for a quick buck. We must act swiftly to save the frog in I heard in the park and the flora and fauna throughout the world.



Related Content

Make Your Pond Happy

Ponds serve many purposes that add an economic or recreational value to the landowner. If you own a ...

The Power of Contagious Ideas

Our ideas, if they are to be effective, should be epidemically contagious.

Earth Gauge Tip of the Week — National Public Lands Day

Volunteer to take care of the public lands in your area during National Public Lands Day on Septembe...

Earth Gauge Tip of the Week — Get Out!

Tips on how to prepare yourself for a day of hiking!

Content Tools




Post a comment below.

 










Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 66% Off the Cover Price

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
Country:
Email:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Lighten the Strain on the Earth and Your Budget

MOTHER EARTH NEWS is the guide to living — as one reader stated — “with little money and abundant happiness.” Every issue is an invaluable guide to leading a more sustainable life, covering ideas from fighting rising energy costs and protecting the environment to avoiding unnecessary spending on processed food. You’ll find tips for slashing heating bills; growing fresh, natural produce at home; and more. MOTHER EARTH NEWS helps you cut costs without sacrificing modern luxuries.

At MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet’s natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. That’s why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.00 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.00 for 6 issues.