It may seem like a stupid question, but why should we be interested in the role of ecosystem services in poverty alleviation? I am playing devil’s advocate here. If you have, like me, spent time with farmers in Tanzania, then the central role of ecosystem health in their agricultural work, house-building, cooking, heating, investment plans and risk management is obvious. Of course ecosystems and ecosystem services must be central to any plan to alleviate poverty or promote prosperity.
Last week at the BioEcon Conference in Cambridge economists from all over the world gathered to share experiences on how to value ecosystem services, and how to incorporate these valuations into decision-making. I joined the workshop as a ‘practicing economist’, working with IIED and partners in developing countries where the environmental threats are ever present, the data is never there, funds are always scarce, and the message needs to be clear, and on time. What are my impressions on how to make our research more useful?
By Oliver Greenfield - Green Economy Coalition – September, 2011
Economic theory (and common sense) tells us that when something is valuable, and it is free, its use tends to infinity - this explains why trees, biodiversity, freshwater and atmospheric space for carbon are all being used ‘like there is no tomorrow’. It also assumes that when something is exhausted (or too expensive), a substitute is almost certain to be found.
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