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A Rhetorical Critique of 'Nonmarket' Economic Valuations for Natural Resources


  • Markus J. Peterson
  • Tarla Rai Peterson


Various 'nonmarket' economic valuation methods have been used to compute 'total' value of nonmarketed natural resources and related recreation. We first outline the history of these valuation techniques and use the Exxon Valdez disaster response and the valuation of whooping cranes, an endangered species, as examples of how these tools can constrain policy. We then explain how, by excluding non-economic social spheres, economic valuation techniques produce a terministic screen that deforms policy makers' vision of the ecological problems faced by society. Using Luhmann's functionalist social theory, we demonstrate that when natural resource managers privilege economic motives, they trivialize other social functions such as education, politics, religion and law. This process presents a significant ethical dilemma for democracies by first naturalizing, then ethicizing, existing patterns of domination.

Suggested Citation

  • Markus J. Peterson & Tarla Rai Peterson, 1993. "A Rhetorical Critique of 'Nonmarket' Economic Valuations for Natural Resources," Environmental Values, White Horse Press, vol. 2(1), pages 47-65, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:env:journl:ev2:ev204

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Erik Ansink & Lars Hein & Knut Per Hasund, 2008. "To Value Functions or Services? An Analysis of Ecosystem Valuation Approaches," Environmental Values, White Horse Press, vol. 17(4), pages 489-503, November.
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    7. Gowdy, John M. & Mayumi, Kozo, 2001. "Reformulating the foundations of consumer choice theory and environmental valuation," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(2), pages 223-237, November.
    8. Kumar, Manasi & Kumar, Pushpam, 2008. "Valuation of the ecosystem services: A psycho-cultural perspective," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 64(4), pages 808-819, February.
    9. Boyd, James & Banzhaf, Spencer, 2007. "What are ecosystem services? The need for standardized environmental accounting units," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 63(2-3), pages 616-626, August.
    10. Clive L. Spash, 2006. "Non-Economic Motivation for Contingent Values: Rights and Attitudinal Beliefs in the Willingness To Pay for Environmental Improvements," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 82(4), pages 602-622.
    11. Mark Sagoff, 2008. "On the Economic Value of Ecosystem Services," Environmental Values, White Horse Press, vol. 17(2), pages 239-257, May.
    12. Clive L. Spash, 2008. "How Much is that Ecosystem in the Window? The One with the Bio-diverse Trail," Environmental Values, White Horse Press, vol. 17(2), pages 259-284, May.
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    More about this item


    environmental ethics; functionalism; natural resources; nonmarket economic valuation; rhetorical criticism; wildlife;

    JEL classification:

    • Q51 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Valuation of Environmental Effects


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