The increasing use of financial values for ecological things (trees, bees, etc.) is deeply problematic.
In Canada for instance PeterBorough’s Green Up and Urban Forest Stewardship Programme (as reported in the Peterborough Examiner) has been literally tying price tags to trees to highlight their importance to members of the public. The value attributed is over 50 years and it does identify the different aspects of the value of trees,
“The tags list oxygen generation ($31,250), air pollution control ($62,000), water recycling ($37,500) and soil erosion control ($31,250) as a tree’s top contributions to a community.”
Whilst this at least acknowledges some of the complexity, English Nature reported that “Bees are worth £200 million”. This was originally reported on the BBC at about the same time that Lehman Brothers collapsed with a reported figure in the region of $613 billion.
Dave Pritchard recently commented on the ecoartnetwork dialogue (9 April 2011),
“For a time, in the 1970s-80s, there was some of the kind of “reconsideration” you describe, with the “deep ecology” of Naess, Bateson, Berry et al. But if you analyse the evolution of the actual policy and advocacy discourse at 10-yearly intervals, for example from the 1972 Stockholm Conference to the 1982 World Conservation Strategy to the 1992 Rio Conference to the 2002 Johannesburg Summit (and then maybe in advance of the Rio+20 summit in 2012 look at the Aichi targets adopted last year), it has swung completely away from any ethics of “existence value” for the non-human component, to a forced justification (in adversarial arenas) in terms of “sustainable development”, “wise use”, “evidence-based conservation”, “ecosystem services” and (largely monetary) valuation of those services. The environmental movement (of which I am a part) congratulates itself on having found better ways of expressing the critical nature of ecosystems within broader mainstream audiences and processes, in this way. But this has all been done by becoming MORE anthropocentric and utilitarian; not less.”
Could the same narrative be written about both education and the arts (a.k.a the creative industries)?