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Tuesday, June 07, 2011

George Monbiot on the value of nature

George has made some interesting comments on the National Ecosystem Assessment referred to in my last post. I recommend your read the whole article in the Guardian newspaper.
Here are a few quotes to wet your appetite.
Posted: 06 Jun 2011 01:07 PM PDT
The well-intentioned dolts putting a price on nature are delivering it into the hands of business.
By George Monbiot. Published in the Guardian 7th June 2011

"Under the last government, the Department for Transport announced that it had discovered “the real value of time”. Here’s the surreal sentence in which this bombshell was dropped: “Forecast growth in the real value of time is shown in Table 3.”
Last week the Department for Environment announced the results of its National Ecosystem Assessment, a massive exercise involving 500 experts. The assessment, it tells us, establishes “the true value of nature … for the very first time.”(2) If you thought the true value of nature was the wonder and delight it invoked, you’re wrong."

"How do they calculate these values? The report tells us that the “ecosystem services” it assesses include “recreation, health and solace”, and natural spaces “in which our culture finds its roots and sense of place”"

"Cost-benefit analysis is systematically rigged in favour of business. Take, for example, the decision-making process for transport infrastructure. The last government developed an appraisal method which almost guaranteed that new roads, railways and runways would be built, regardless of the damage they might do or the paltry benefits they might deliver(8). The method costs people’s time according to how much they earn, and uses this cost to create a value for the development. So, for example, it says the market price of an hour spent travelling in a taxi is £45, but the price of an hour spent travelling by bicycle is just £17, because cyclists tend to be poorer than taxi passengers"

"Its assumptions are utterly illogical. For example, commuters are deemed to use all the time saved by a new high speed rail link to get to work earlier, rather than to live further away. Rich rail passengers are expected to do no useful work on trains, but to twiddle their thumbs and stare vacantly out of the window throughout the journey. This costing system explains why successive governments want to invest in high-speed rail rather than cycle lanes, and why multi-billion pound road schemes which cut two minutes off your journey are deemed to offer value for money(10). None of this is accidental: the cost-benefit models governments use excite intense interest from business lobbyists. Civil servants with an eye on lucrative directorships in their retirement ensure that the decision-making process is rigged in favour of over-development."

I'm not sure I agree entirely with George. The whole subject needs some thought