Valuing Nature: The Decline and Preservation of Old-Growth Forests

Valuing Nature: The Decline and Preservation of Old-Growth Forests

Valuing Nature: The Decline and Preservation of Old-Growth Forests

Valuing Nature: The Decline and Preservation of Old-Growth Forests

Synopsis

. . . a balanced treatment of a very timely topic . . . -CHOICE . . . a masterful presentation of the ecological and socioeconomic history of Northwest forests . . . -John M. Gowdy, Rensselelaer Polytechnic Institute

Excerpt

Some ten years ago, I became seriously interested in the connection between economics and ecology. Because I grew up in the Pacific Northwest and returned there frequently after moving away, the connection that was most concrete for me was between the timber industry and the forests. As time passed, I saw the patchwork quilt of clearcuts so common in the Pacific Northwest extending farther and farther up the mountainsides. No one I knew seemed to like this very much, but most accepted it as a necessary price to pay for regional economic prosperity. Still, what I saw did not sit well with me instinctively. This experience led me to devote a sabbatical from teaching to looking into the connection between economic activity in the Pacific Northwest and the ecology of the forests—the final result is this book.

After gaining a basic understanding of the ecology of old-growth forests, I had trouble continuing to accept the cost-benefit approach taken by economists in analyzing resource allocation decisions. Somehow, it didn't seem right just placing a dollar value on something as interesting and unique as old-growth forests. I knew that the cost-benefit framework could take into account the benefits of preserved old growth for recreation and other purposes, but that didn't seem like enough.

In search of a framework appropriate for analyzing the question of whether old-growth forests should be exploited or preserved, I was led to the relatively new field of environmental ethics. In this literature, I found a methodology that seemed to answer my concerns about the cost‐ benefit approach. While there isn't universal agreement by any means, many environmental ethicists argue that nature is valuable in its own right and should be an object of moral concern. While this view can be rooted in reasonable philosophical principles and is thus attractive to me . . .

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