Sadly it’s necessary for us to describe the way of the world to George Monbiot once again. Here he is complaining about the fact that the government is putting a value on various parts of the environment:
Do you believe that people prepared to cheat to this extent would stop a scheme because one of the government’s committees has attached a voodoo value to a piece of woodland? It’s more likely that the accounting exercise would be used as a weapon by the developers. The woods are worth £x, but by pure chance the road turns out to be worth £x +1. Beauty, tranquillity, history, place, particularity? Sorry, they’ve already been costed and incorporated into x – end of discussion. The strongest arguments that opponents can deploy – arguments based on values – cannot be heard.
That the government might cheat should not surprise anyone at all. But it’s in that last sentence that Monbiot exemplifies his ignorance on the point. For the very method that is used to determine that accounting exercise is based upon those very values that he wishes to deploy.
For the way we calculate the amentiy of some piece of nature is by adding up what we can tell about peoples’ behaviour toward that piece of nature. It’s not, admittedly, an exact science, more of an art. But what amount of something else would people be prepared to give up in order to preserve or have access to that piece of nature? The value of an oil rig free view of Cardigan Bay perhaps. Or an old, coppiced forest? We do use money in this process but that’s only because we want to be able to do sums. Is that view of Cardigan Bay worth more than cutting that forest down to keep people warm in the absence of oil and or gas from the Bay?
And it is the views of everyone that count here. Our entire indifference to whatever happens in Wales as against the much greater interest that is going to be shown by Monbiot who actually uses the bay currently to go fishing from his kayak. But that is what we’re doing when we try to work out the value of some piece of nature: how much value does it have to the lives of the human beings it affects? And It’s very difficult indeed to see how we could make decisions in any other manner.
What Monbiot is really complaining about here is that the rest of us don’t have the same values about nature that he does. To which the answer is, well, tough, for it’s a democracy and all our views count, not just those of the Guardian writing class.