An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of November 1, 2005
written at Hacienda San Juan Lizarraga one km east of
Telchac Pueblo, Yucatan, MEXICO

PUTTING A PRICE ON NATURE

The other day, for an online magazine in Holland, I wrote an essay on how -- if we are to save Life on Earth -- we humans must awaken from our hypnotic trances, begin seeing things clearly, and change our behaviors. Dirk Damsma, a professional economist at the University of Amsterdam, wrote saying that he agreed, and asked me what I thought about protecting nature by putting a price on it.

"... as soon as nature can be priced, protecting it can become profitable," he suggested. Here was my reply:

I disagree with your idea that placing a price on nature is the best way to protect it.

The workings of market forces seldom live up to the promise of their theoretical underpinning, supply and demand. Market prices are much distorted by such things as subsidies, sales taxes, embargos and the rapacious, self-serving behavior of very rich and powerful people and organizations. There is no reason to believe that if we apply market principles to nature the things of nature will ever be designated as having prices even approaching their real values.

For, with nature the stakes are higher than with the things market principles are concerned with. A manufactured cog can be stored, reused, sold at discounts, etc., but once a species goes extinct, millions of years of evolutionary wisdom are simply lost, never to be reclaimed. When a rainforest is destroyed, a rainforest does not grow back. The destruction of a rainforest changes soil and microclimate conditions so drastically that what grow back are weeds, not rainforest.

You might say that I need to be realistic, that I need to compromise just a little and accept practices real people in the "real world" can handle.

I say that the "real world" of Western-style commerce as it has become with neoconservative globalization is so perverse, so self-serving and so void of all feeling for average people and other living things that there is nothing realistic about it. Just look at the price Americans must pay for their medicines.

Awakening from the trance we are in must be a holistic experience. Putting a price on the components of nature would be no more than a gimmick that would perpetuate the false notion that nature is composed of discrete, independent parts. Also, it would perpetuate the lie that we can spend ourselves out of trouble without needing to change our own behaviors and our ways of seeing the world around us.

On a spiritual level, it would be just as insulting to the Creative Force of the Universe for the things of nature to wear price tags than it would be to place a monetary value on a mother's love for her child, or the way you feel when you "go home," or when you gaze into the starry sky at night. Facebook Icon.