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Environmentalists Question Commodification (Part II)

By Sterling Burnett -- July 12, 2013

“Payment schemes also risk creating perverse incentives…. If the system pays landowners to bank carbon, they may plant non-native species, or genetically ‘improved’ trees to bank carbon faster. Or they may discourage natural phenomena that happen to be good for biodiversity but bad for people, including such ecosystem disservices as fire, drought, disease, or flood.”

Just as there are supporters of this relatively new way of looking at environmental decision-making–commodification–there are also critics. I include myself among them.

Some environmentalists argue that ecosystems or their constituent parts with intrinsic value does not mean they should be priced and treated as economic goods. By stressing the market value of ecosystem services, should those values be exceedingly difficult to calculate, or come in at a lower-than-expected value, it will be easier for those pushing more intensive human intervention in the ecosystem to win the day in the policy field.