Can we use prices to protect nature?

The infinitely eloquent and provoking George Monbiot wrote an article in which he said a bunch of silly things:

  • “Through the market, we can avoid conflict and hard choices, laws and policies, by replacing political decisions with economic calculations.”
  • “Unless something is redeemable for money, a pound or dollar sign placed in front of it is senseless: price represents an expectation of payment, in accordance with market rates. In pricing a river, a landscape or an ecosystem, either you are lining it up for sale, in which case the exercise is sinister, or you are not, in which case it is meaningless.”
  • “The natural capital agenda is the definitive expression of our disengagement from the living world.”

We responded, less provokingly, in a letter to the Guardian. In short, we argue that “natural capital does not prepare nature for sale; it calls attention to the worth of what is lost.”