> Seriously, what I'm talking about is looking at
>nature and human well-being as assets, to be included
>in wealth, and deducted when they are harmed. That
>is, a country would become measurably poorer (by
>standard measurements of wealth) if, for instance, it
>loses forest, or pollutes its rivers and lakes, or the
>population becomes more obese and life expectancy
>decreases...even if by measures of the market economy,
>the country is gaining wealth. One of the problems of
>course is assigning monetary value to nature and
>well-being--but it seems that an attempt to do so, at
>least, might help show how car-based societies are
>making us poorer.
> Since governments (at least that of the US, but
>hardly only the US) seem only to care about economic
>well-being, it doesn't help to talk about climate
>change, loss of species, etc.--unless those can be
>shown to make us poorer. Lester Thurow (in Zero Sum
>Society) also talks about how nature is in some sense
>a consumable--enjoyed and valued by the middle
>class--so it should be ranked among other consumer
>goods as something desirable in economic terms.
> As I understand, it took putting HIV/AIDS into
>terms of economic loss to make many governments pay
>attention; if we could "mainstream" the
>environment/nature and people's well-being into
>measurements of national wealth, we wouldn't have to
>keep taking on one issue at a time.
The problem is that what is really needed is TWO systems
of accounting. One is the money we have today, and the
other is a "second economy" based on intangibles with its
own currency. When you bought a gallon of gas, you would
have to pay in two currencies, one for Exxon and one for
the people of Nigeria. Now, keeping track of just one
currency is trouble enough already. So, we're going to
have to monetize the other costs and use the existing
accounting system to keep track. Nations are going to have
to decide on the non-economic costs of cutting down a
first-growth tree or adding a ton of CO2 to the atmosphere.
The first attempts will undervalue these "goods", which
is probably ok, as it reduces the economic dislocation,
but over time, these non-economic costs should come to
be valued at a level that reasonably reflects their worth.
There's a Nobel in economics here for somebody...
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J.H. Crawford Carfree Cities