Valuing Nature? Ethics, Economics and the Environment

Valuing Nature? Ethics, Economics and the Environment

Valuing Nature? Ethics, Economics and the Environment

Valuing Nature? Ethics, Economics and the Environment


The state of the environment is now widely acknowledged as a serious cause for concern. Valuing Nature? argues that the prevailing economic attitude to the environment, which values it as a consumer good, contributes to its destruction. This book brings together philosophers, economists and a sociologist to provide a new approach to environmental policy. Topics include: a critique of neo-classical economic thought on the environment; environmental economics, institutions and policy; the effect of turning to contingent valuation surveys and cost benefit analysis for environmental decisions; and alternative valuation methods. Contributors include Geoffrey Hodgson, Clive Spash, Micheal Jacobs, Brian Hynne, John O'Neil.

-- Raised the question of how ethical values can be brought into public policy without being reduced to economic considerations

-- Challenges the present orthodoxy in environmental policy-making


This book really arose in response to the broad conditions of intellectual, political and economic life sketched in its Introduction. These conditions manifest themselves very plainly in the gathering environmental crisis; but also, more insidiously, in much of the way in which our kind of society tries to address this crisis. As well as the state of the environment, the state of our attention to the state of the environment is now seriously alarming. the drive for our book comes from this level of concern.

Proximately, however, the book arose from a grant made by the Economic and Social Research Council under its Global Environmental Change programme to Lancaster University’s Centre for the Study of Environmental Change (CSEC), for a project to explore conceptual problems with the dominant neo-classical orthodoxy of environmental economics. These were problems, as described in the research bid, with the representations of value and human personhood on which this orthodoxy depends. in the background lay the work of writers like the American philosopher Mark Sagoff, who had argued (Sagoff 1988b) that there were logical as well as practical difficulties with capturing environmental value on a model of individual preferences. Our project was designed to suggest how controversies affecting the use of neo-classical environmental valuation methods in policy-making might stem from the deliberately restrictive nature of these representations, and correspondingly how more promising ways of handling environmental value in the policy arena could be developed.

Csec is an innovative research enterprise based in social science, but with extensive and lively connections across the spectrum of environmental thinking both in and beyond Lancaster. It was therefore natural to set this study up as a series of linked research seminars with a diverse cross-disciplinary membership. Philosophers, economists and sociologists from six universities (ranging in seniority from professors to postgraduates) and from the policy world, met in Lancaster for this purpose on half a dozen occasions between 1993 and 1995. As the vigorous, open and fruitful discussion and writing sparked by these arrangements progressed, it . . .

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