Re-establishing an Ecological Discourse in the Debate over the Value of Ecosystems and Biodiversity

Clive L. Spash, Iulie Aslaksen

Publication: Working/Discussion PaperWU Working Paper


The approach of conceptualizing biodiversity and ecosystems as goods and services to be
represented by monetary values in policy is being championed not just by economists, but
also by ecologists and conservation biologists. This new environmental pragmatism is now
being pushed forward internationally under the guise of hardwiring biodiversity and
ecosystems services into finance. This conflicts with the realisation that biodiversity and
ecosystems have multiple incommensurable values. The current trend is to narrowly define a
set of instrumental aspects of ecosystems and biodiversity to be associated with ad hoc
money numbers. We argue that ecosystem science has more to offer the policy debate than
pseudo-economic numbers based on assumptions that do not reflect ecological or social
complexity. Re-establishing the ecological discourse in biodiversity policy implies a crucial
role for biophysical indicators as policy targets e.g., the Nature Index for Norway. Yet there
is a recognisable need to go beyond the traditional ecological approach to create a social
ecological economic discourse. This requires reviving and relating to a range of alternative
ecologically informed discourses (e.g. intrinsic values, deep ecology, ecofeminism) in order
to transform the increasingly dominant and destructive relationship of humans separated from
and domineering over Nature. (author's abstract)
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationVienna
PublisherWU Vienna University of Economics and Business
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Publication series

NameSRE - Discussion Papers

WU Working Paper Series

  • SRE - Discussion Papers

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