February 13, 2009

Ecosystem services and counting costs as benefits

Let's get costs and benefits, and thus prices, right.
[I]f the market could somehow be made to price the [ecosystem] services appropriately, all those forests, streams, lakes, prairies and seashores would suddenly acquire real economic value, and people would have incentives to preserve them.
Or let's get them all wrong. This is what we would achieve if we were to follow Nature's logic. The above quote (which, by the way, confuses "real economic value" with commercial value) comes from one of today's editorials. And here is another one:
[S]cience policy-makers will need to make ecosystem monitoring, research, analysis and simulation a high priority in general — and on an ongoing basis. Granted, it will be difficult to find money for such activities in the current economic downturn. But they could provide a fair number of jobs. Monitoring tasks such as checking sediment traps and nitrogen levels in streams require many boots on the ground, for example, and streambed restoration requires many more.
"But?" Why "but?" Those activities cost money because they require jobs. Jobs are costs, not benefits. Monitoring is very bad (very costly), and streambed restoration is even worse. But for Nature large costs count as good reasons for undertaking projects.

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