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Putting a price tag on paradise

Conservationists and corporations often do not see eye to eye

An environmentalist may argue that a rainforest should be protected for its inherent beauty, while a logging company executive might claim that its real worth lies in its cut timber.

With such a wide range of opinion, is it ever possible to reach a consensus on the economic value of a rainforest?

Yes, say 17 ecologists and economists in a new article published in the journal Science.

"We must make conservation profitable," says biologist Gretchen C. Daily, lead author of the July 21 Science report.

She maintains that time is running out for the planet, and those who want to save it must create economic incentives to do so.

"Some might say this is an act of desperation that is doomed to fail," she concedes -- an attempt to align almighty market forces with environmental conservation.

"But we'll never save the environment on the basis of charity alone," she adds. "We have decades of experience showing this. We need to create ways of rewarding people financially for protecting environmental assets."

Daily is director of the Tropical Research Program at Stanford's Center for Conservation Biology. Her Science co-authors from Stanford are Nobel laureate Kenneth J. Arrow, professor emeritus of economics; Paul R. Ehrlich, professor of biological sciences; and David Starrett, former chair of the Economics Department.

The authors also are affiliated with the Beijer Institute of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

"The world's ecosystems are capital assets," write the authors. "If properly managed, they yield a flow of vital services, including the production of goods (such as seafood and timber), life support processes (such as pollination and water purification) and life-fulfilling conditions (such as beauty and serenity).

"Unfortunately, relative to other forms of capital, ecosystems are poorly understood, scarcely monitored, and (in many ca
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Contact: Mark Shwartz
mshwartz@stanford.edu
650-723-9296
Stanford University
20-Jul-2000


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