“Ecological Assets as Working-Capital Assets”

Newsweek has published a short interview with Stanford University ecologist Gretchen Daily on the idea of selling “offsets” to protecting biodiversity. Daily gives a vivid overview of the concept, but also takes note of its limitations:

Looking at it cynically, it’s like saying, “OK, we’ll slaughter woodpeckers over here as long as we protect a few of them over there.” The net effect, from an ecological point of view, isn’t ideal, because you might be further endangering the species by allowing the development. At the same time, development is just marching on, despite the Endangered Species Act. And these flexible, voluntary schemes are much more likely to be followed than the sledgehammer approach. It’s better for the woodpecker because something is being done.

In other words, it’s a start. I can definitely understand how such a system is preferable to the status quo, but 1) what about questions we’ve raised here before about “cost vs. benefits” analyses that favor destruction of biodiversity, and 2) does such a system become worrisome in terms of “privatization” of nature?

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