Economic Growth and Valuation of the Environment

Economic Growth and Valuation of the Environment

A Debate

Edited by Ekko C. Van Ierland, Jan van der Straaten and Herman Vollebergh

The debate on the valuation of nature and the environment, sustainable national income and economic growth is one of prime importance in environmental economics. Economic Growth and Valuation of the Environment deals with the fundamental approaches to calculating sustainable national income and their implications for the valuation of the environment.

Chapter 6: Values, valuation and valuing processes

Richard B. Norgaard, Astrid J. Scholz and Sarah Fleisher Trainor

Subjects: economics and finance, environmental economics, environment, environmental economics


Richard B. Norgaard, Astrid J. Scholz and Sarah Fleisher Trainor 1 INTRODUCTION Roefie Hueting repeatedly argued that ‘Society is sailing by the wrong compass, at the expense of the environment’ (Hueting, 1992, p.255). Failing to incorporate appropriate values for nature in critical indicators like gross domestic product affects the economic decisions we make and how we use the environment. Like Roefie, we are suspicious of how economists understand the value of ecosystems as the sum of individual services on the margin. We are equally suspicious of the measurement of value in the context of prices generated by consumers’ choices in a market system that is unsustainable. We agree that ‘Many environmental losses . . . constitute part of a process which may lead to the disruption of the life-support functions of our planet and endanger the living conditions of generations to come, and therefore cannot be considered separately’ (Hueting, 1991, p.200). Roefie Hueting consistently combined ecological reasoning with a sustainability ethic that precedes market values, an ethic that we share. An underlying premise of our study is that achieving sustainability is proving difficult precisely because a sustainability ethic is not widely shared. Those who hold a sustainability ethic see protecting the material well-being of future generations as an overarching value, much as Wilfred Beckerman argues elsewhere in this book that justice within generations is an overriding criteria by which we should judge economic development. Political discourse and policy analysis, however, are increasingly dominated by the utilitarian ethics of...

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