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Re-establishing an Ecological Discourse in the Debate over the Value of Ecosystems and Biodiversity


  • Clive L. Spash
  • Iulie Aslaksen


The approach of conceptualizing biodiversity and ecosystems as goods and services to be represented by monetary values in policy is being championed not just by economists, but also by ecologists and conservation biologists. This new environmental pragmatism is now being pushed forward internationally under the guise of hardwiring biodiversity and ecosystems services into finance. This conflicts with the realisation that biodiversity and ecosystems have multiple incommensurable values. The current trend is to narrowly define a set of instrumental aspects of ecosystems and biodiversity to be associated with ad hoc money numbers. We argue that ecosystem science has more to offer the policy debate than pseudo-economic numbers based on assumptions that do not reflect ecological or social complexity. Re-establishing the ecological discourse in biodiversity policy implies a crucial role for biophysical indicators as policy targets e.g., the Nature Index for Norway. Yet there is a recognisable need to go beyond the traditional ecological approach to create a social ecological economic discourse. This requires reviving and relating to a range of alternative ecologically informed discourses (e.g. intrinsic values, deep ecology, ecofeminism) in order to transform the increasingly dominant and destructive relationship of humans separated from and domineering over Nature.

Suggested Citation

  • Clive L. Spash & Iulie Aslaksen, 2012. "Re-establishing an Ecological Discourse in the Debate over the Value of Ecosystems and Biodiversity," SRE-Disc sre-disc-2012_05, Institute for Multilevel Governance and Development, Department of Socioeconomics, Vienna University of Economics and Business.
  • Handle: RePEc:wiw:wiwsre:sre-disc-2012_05

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    Cited by:

    1. Hedden-Dunkhorst, Bettina & Braat, Leon & Wittmer, Heidi, 2015. "TEEB emerging at the country level: Challenges and opportunities," Ecosystem Services, Elsevier, vol. 14(C), pages 37-44.

    More about this item


    Economic valuation; Intrinsic value; Pragmatism; Social ecological economics; Ecosystems; Biodiversity;

    JEL classification:

    • A12 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Relation of Economics to Other Disciplines
    • Q57 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Ecological Economics
    • Q51 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Valuation of Environmental Effects


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