Stephen Polasky: Accounting for Nature, Incorporating the Value of Nature in Economic Decisions
April 17, 2016
The two great challenges of the 21st century are to achieve economic development so that all people can have a decent standard of living, and to conserve and enhance the natural capital necessary for long-term sustainability. In order to simultaneously meet both challenges we need to effectively integrate the value of nature into the economic system. Nature currently provides a wide range of valuable goods and services (ecosystem services). However, current economic systems do not account for these values nor provide incentives for conserving the natural capital necessary for the continued provision of ecosystem services. Correctly accounting for nature requires a base of scientific knowledge to understand the links between: a) human actions and impacts on ecosystem functions, b) ecosystem functions and the provision of ecosystem services, and c) the contribution of ecosystem services to human well-being. Correctly accounting for nature also requires incorporating this knowledge into economic incentives affecting the everyday decisions of individuals, businesses and government agencies. This talk by Stephen Polasky of the University of Minnesota will provide examples of integrated analysis on land use choices in Minnesota, Oregon, and China to effectively account for the value of nature.