- A recent assessment of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services calls for the integration of the variety of ways in which humans value nature.
- Often many decisions are driven by market-based considerations, which has contributed to the global biodiversity crisis, according to the authors of the assessment.
- But nature is more valuable to humans than just what is marketable or tangible.
- By considering these other values, such as cultural identity and spirituality, policymakers can create policies that are more inclusive and likely to stem global species loss, scientists say.
The focus on valuing nature through the prism of the market has contributed to the global biodiversity crisis, according to a recent report of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).
IPBES produced an in-depth assessment in 2019, concluding that one million species of plants and animals could go extinct as part of global species decline. Building on this assessment, the authors of this new report note that the surge in economic growth, sometimes leading to uncontrolled consumption of resources and destruction of habitat, has helped to fuel this shift.
“Biodiversity is disappearing and nature’s contributions to people are degrading faster now [than] at any other time in human history,” said Ana María Hernández Salgar, President of IPBES, in A declaration. “This is largely because our current approach to political and economic decisions does not sufficiently take into account the diversity of nature’s values.”
The new report, released on July 11, focuses on how human societies value nature. “Market-based” values, such as using the land for industrial-scale agriculture or clearing the forest for timber that can be sold, have been dominant. But, according to the report, changing the way humans perceive the value of natural services and resources could provide ways to stem biodiversity loss.
“The report does not tell countries or sectors which way to go,” Unai Pascual, co-chair of the assessment, told a press conference. “What he says [them] is that any path that might be followed is underpinned by specific values, and those values must be understood.
The assessment involved reviewing over 1,000 studies, identifying over 50 approaches to sorting out the value of what we humans get from nature. The authors grouped the studies according to the methods they used to assign a value to a good or service provided by nature – whether, for example, these processes took into account the value that indigenous groups place on the nature. (Turns out, many don’t.)
“What is missing is the use of valuation methods to address power asymmetries between stakeholders and to seamlessly integrate the diverse values of nature into policy-making,” Pascual said. in the press release.
The authors categorized the ways in which nature is valued, distilling the different approaches into several perspectives on the value of what nature provides. These ways of thinking ranged from an emphasis on the satisfaction of material needs, to the inherent rights of nature, to the cultural identity and spirituality that flowed from it.
Integrating these different perspectives has potential, the report’s officials said.
“Recognizing and respecting the worldviews, values and traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples and local communities allows policies to be more inclusive, which also translates into better outcomes for people and nature”, Brigitte Baptiste , landscape ecologist and co-chair of the assessment, said in the statement.
Ultimately, proponents of a more integrated valuation of nature say we must account for what it provides to us, whether those services, goods and other benefits fit neatly into the market paradigm or not.
“Nature is what sustains us all. It gives us food, medicine, raw materials, oxygen, climate regulation and much more,” said Inger Andersen, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme, in the statement announcing publication of the assessment. “If we don’t value nature and factor it into decision-making, it will continue to be lost. And that can only be bad news for humanity.
Banner image: Children catch fish in a rice field, Thailand. Image by TOM…foto/Shutterstock.com.
John Cannon is a feature writer with Mongabay. Find him on Twitter: @johnccannon
Pascual, U., Balvanera, P., Christie, M., Baptiste, B., González-Jiménez, D., Anderson, CB … Vatn, A. (Eds.). (2022). Summary for policymakers of the methodological assessment of the various values and valuation of nature of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. do I:10.5281/zenodo.6522392
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