Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Anthropocentric value, quasi-option value and .... frogs.

Note: post has been re-titled for clarity.
Apologies for the confusion this may have caused.

Here is an interesting short read from CNN.


Kyle Borgemeister said...

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature claims that one in three amphibians could go extinct and since 1980 we have already lost 122 species of amphibians alone. These are scary figures even for frogs. Simon Stuart said the amphibians can protect themselves against human diseases, but how can they protect themselves from habitat desruction? Previously, I was unaware of just how endagered even our amphibians are nevermind the polar bears; amphibians are in everybody's backyard.

Anonymous said...

As was Kyle, prior to reading this article I wasn't aware that such vast numbers of amphibians were facing extinction. As the article points out, there are many uses for amphibians that are benficial to humans. Amphibian specialist Simon Stuart mentions that many amphibians have compounds stored within their skin that could cure human diseases. Perhaps informing more people of the multitude of uses for amphibians would allow people to put a more tangible "value" on the amphibians.
-Ryan D

Saracasey said...

if amphibians do possess health benefits to humans, then frogs will have a higher value to humans. quasi-value because these benefits all are not realized yet, but humans would want to keep the frogs around just to have the option to use them for human health in the future.

So using antropocentrism, humans can show there is value in preserving amphibian populations.

Anonymous said...

I continue to vehemently argue in favor of intrinsic value. I cannot support the argument that by realizing the benefits of something to humans that we can ever account for the true value of everything on this planet. We will never KNOW enough to accurately determine these things. I argue that everything has quasi-option value because we can never fully understand every precise function that something has in this ecosystem, even with decades or centuries of rigorous scientific study. I find many faults in the anthropocentric core of this economic philosophy. However, I cannot propose a better alternative.

How can there be an economic system based on the idea that everything from a pebble to a grizzly bear is equally valuable simply because they both exist? To imagine a feasible new economy that will function to control human activities to a point that is within the carrying capacity of the planet (because this is the only system of control I can fathom to remedy our present crisis [yes, i said crisis]) and spread wealth equally among all humans...well that would require a complete revolution in our social philosophy.

Enough of my rambling... I would like to conclude by saying that I find all these attempts at conjuring up a dollar value for every naturally occurring entity on this planet petty, trivial, and downright insane. Maybe I'm missing something, though...

Dr. Peter Schuhmann said...

Dear anonymous poster,

No one has argued against intrinsic value. Indeed, a large part of what resource economists do is try to understand and measure intrinsic value. I'm not sure how you missed this.

Further, no one ever said that we are trying to measure ("conjuring up"?) the value of everything. That would be impossible, not to mention silly. We only attempt to measure value when we have a reason to. For example, in helping to shape natural resource policy, perhaps by sending proper price signals to curtail damaging behavior. If we don't understand value, how are we going to make decisions about necessary trade-offs?

Here are two things for you to think about: suppose a given natural resource is under pressure from use. Would you rather have an estimate of what the intrinsic value of that resource is (that is, what it is worth in its natural state) or would you rather have no estimate at all?

Moreover, you seem to be appalled by something that occurs every day and is done by everyone including yourself. You have overlooked the fact that as individuals and as a society we are already (implicitly) placing a value on just about everything, from natural resources to human life, through our actions and inactions. When we make personal and society-level decisions about how much time, money and energy to spend on things, are we not placing value on those things? When we decide how much to spend on environmental protection (explicit cost) versus other endeavors like military spending and highways, or when we decide to allow development that impacts environmental quality (opportunity cost), are we not placing a value on the environment? When you decide to drive your polluting car because it would be "too expensive" for you to walk, are you not placing a value on the environment? Like it or not, that is exactly what you are doing.

We even place values on human life! When we decide as a society how much to spend on safe roads and health care, are we not placing a value on human life? When you decide how much to spend on your own personal safety (auto safety features in the cars you buy, or home protection that you could purchase, the types of food that you decide to eat, etc) are you not placing a value on your own life? Yes, you are. Because you are choosing to make these tradeoffs between money, time, convenience and your own personal health safety, that is exactly what you are doing, whether you like it or not.

The process of non-market valuation simply makes these estimates of worth more formal so that they can be easily understood and used for policy.

Dr. Peter Schuhmann said...

Quick note for clarity:

The anthropocentric perspective of value (what we are discussing) is not the same as "Anthropocentrism" (the philosophy that states that humans are supreme and the natual world exists only to support people).

Apologies for any contributions that I have made toward this source of confusion.