Ecosystem effects on well-being: More than just "benefits"? Looking at ecosystem services through the capability approach
Conceptual discussions on the impacts of ecosystem services (ESS) on human well-being have largely been boiled down to limits and applications of their monetisation. Therefore, in practice, the use of the ESS concept has been to a large extent boiled down to payment-for-ecosystem-services schemes. In this paper we argue that the human well-being dimension of the ESS concept has to be revisited since it is more diverse than the widely cited notion of benefits (MA, 2005). To tackle this issue, we examine the ESS concept through the lens of the capability approach, which offers a pluralistic framework for well-being as an alternative to mainstream utilitarian or monetary perspectives. We argue that ESS can effectively be viewed as contributing - in different ways - to people's multidimensional capability sets, i.e. their freedoms to lead a life they have reason to value. Such a view allows us to go beyond currently prevailing utilitarianism in analysing effects of ecosystems on human well-being, thus contributing with a new perspective to the current discourse on the use of the ESS concept.
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