Thursday 2 May 2019

Monetisation of Nature.

I am so tired of hearing about the importance of 'economic growth' - and I despair of humanity if we have reached the stage where wildlife is only conserved for its monetary value.  The same goes for water, air, and soil quality. Every time I hear references these days to the natural world and its importance to us (the human race), the commentary is dotted with phrases like 'natural resources', 'ecosystem services', 'pollinator services', 'natural capital' etc. Phrases such as these make me wince. I have tried to understand them, but I simply cannot.

As far as I can see we have already done plenty of economic 'growing' but I see no evidence whatsoever that it is making us any happier, or healthier…. nor is it helping those who are most in need.  It just seems to be stripping away the last vestiges of the connection we once had with the natural world. How on earth can you have an intimate, loving and interconnected relationship with something you have to put a price tag on?!

Economic growth seems to be about putting price tags on just about everything that moves; whether it has six legs and two pairs of wings, is composed of two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen, or lives next door and is willing to look after your small child or your elderly mother whilst you have a break. It's called monetisation, and over the last few decades it seems to have insidiously crept its way into every area of our lives.

Surely the clue to how we should function as a species is in how we feel and see things as children? i.e our natural state of being. We are born with an innate connection to Planet Earth, a connection that (if it is nurtured) fills us with love and concern for our fellow creatures, but this connection is systematically drummed out of us when we go to school, if not before, and is mostly replaced with a very human-centric 'what can it do for me' view of the world.

Whatever happened to us caring for something and wanting to conserve it simply for the love of life? What, I wonder, has happened to the human race that we are now so disconnected from the land, from our natural surroundings, from our communities and from our own inner selves…. that we have all but forgotten who we are….?

There are of course many people who still have, or have re-discovered, their intimate connection with the natural world; people who hold all life sacred and who do what they can to conserve and preserve that life for its own sake rather than for what is is worth in monetary terms. But these people are still few and far between.

I battle with the fact that to inspire (most) businesses, councils and individuals to sit up and take notice of the importance and urgency of 'bee decline', introducing them to the wonderful, enchanting, and enthralling world of these incredible beings is not enough. Most people need, at the very least, to understand bees importance as pollinators in the human food chain in order that they will take their decline more seriously.  Surely bee decline, or the decline of any other species impacted upon by the human race for that matter, should be a serious issue in its own right?

Having said all this, I do still witness sadness and horror as some begin to understand exactly how toxic pesticides such as neonicotinoids are to bees, and exactly how much habitat has been lost to modern agricultural practices and urban sprawl… not to mention the undiluted shock people express when they hear how bumblebees are bred in their thousands to 'service' commercial tomato crops, and then frozen, drowned or burned to death after the pollinating is done.

Whether or not any of this has a lasting impact on the way people make their choices I do not know.

There are many reasons used to justify the ongoing shift towards putting a monetary value on the natural world, and we are all entitled to think/believe what we wish, but despite the crazy irony that governments are paying huge attention to bee decline simply because of their so called 'value to the economy',  none of these justifications sit well with me. Lucky bees that they have been deemed to be worth £billions. Not so lucky if you are an insect with little, or no value to the economy though, for in this case you are ultimately dispensable.

My own belief is that if we are to save what is left of the incredible diversity of species we share this planet with, nothing short of a complete Sea-change in our collective psyche is needed. Putting a price on wildlife, clean water and air, or healthy 'living' soil is not the solution. It just creates more problems and disconnects us further from all that is sacred. 

If only we would all spend a little time each day (or even each week) simply sitting quietly on the grass, beside a stream, on a beach, in a garden, in a park, amongst some rocks, underneath a tree (or even better, in a tree!)…. and just listen, breath, observe, watch, notice, absorb…….. connect. If we were all to do this we might collectively begin to experience once again that unadulterated wonderment, enchantment and love we felt when we were children. And we cannot hurt that which we love.

Brigit x

P.S…..when did a bee last send you an invoice?


  1. Hi Brigit, I do think it can add extra strength to the importance of our wildlife - and which doesn't detract at all from those in society who believe that nature has an intrinsic value that is worth protecting regardless of its value to humans. At this time in human history, most of the environment is treated as an 'externality' on corporate financial balance sheets withregards to production and comsumption, so degrading it incurs no costs to corporates, but it's a loss shared by all of us in society (A tragedy of the commons). By valuing natural processes, and showing how commerce can diminish ecosystems function and result in the loss and decline of plants and animals, we just might force them to revise economic activities that honour nature's constraints?

  2. As a beekeeper, I've long bewailed the monocultural practices of commercial agriculture, with vast acreages devoted to dragging as much as possible from the soil and offering, for pollinators, nothing but ecological desert. I took up beekeeping for the interest and the science of it, not for any commercial gain and not even for honey, quite a lot of which I use to support weak colonies. We learn from our experience of nature, simply from observing, and from childhood (in the Weald of West Sussex) I have spent countless hours quietly absorbing what the natural world has to offer. This post is uplifting in its quietly confident understanding of what each of us may gain in everything but money from our absorption in living things. I'm pleased to visit here.

  3. You write with great wisdom. I qualified as an accountant years many years ago, and have always loved nature. Having an interest in both sides has been a conflict. I have a habit these days of turning things 180degrees to try and locate a reason for such illogical behaviour. My conclusion is the aware human is a questioning human, the greedy human has a ring through their nose and is easily led. Imagine how different and better things can be and keep putting your thoughts out there.
    Best to you

  4. I feel like you've put my thoughts into words so perfectly! We can't put a price on the natural world... on biodiversity. It needs to be given far more importance than economic welfare in my opinion.

  5. I completely understand where you are coming from, but I can say that this approach ('natural capital' etc) can bring a LOT of government money into habitat creation projects etc. It might not be ideal, but it is potentially a useful tool.

    Also in the training I've had on it, the ecologists giving the training have made it clear from the start that it's not 'putting a price on nature'.