Should nature have a price or is it priceless?

Anglia Ruskin University and the University of East Anglia have won a joint funding bid from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) to examine and debate the “natural capital” of the East of England.

The World Forum on National Capital define natural capital as including “the food we eat, the water we drink and the plant materials we use for fuel, building materials and medicines”.

The concept of putting a “value” on different aspects of the natural world has become influential in policy making and is expected to be at the centre of the UK Government’s new “25 Year Plan for Nature”, due out next month.

The funding will enable UEA’s Dr Rupert Read and Dr Aled Jones and Prof. Victor Anderson, from Anglia Ruskin’s Global Sustainability Institute, to set up a network where academics from a range of disciplines, together with the business community and policy makers, can discuss the implications of looking at the East’s natural world through the prism of natural capital.

Dr Rupert Read of UEA, Principal Investigator on the project, and Dr Aled Jones, Director of Anglia Ruskin’s Global Sustainability Institute, said in a joint statement: “Essentially the question we’ll be trying to answer is this: If we say that nature is priceless, do we end up in effect treating it as valueless? Or is being unwilling to price nature the best protection we have against it being packaged up, owned, bought, sold or used up? By 2018, as a result of this network’s creation, we will hopefully be closer to being able to decide whether nature ought to be evaluated primarily in terms of the price that can be put on it, or in terms of its ‘pricelessness’ “.

The 18-month project will formally begin with a workshop at UEA, in early 2017.

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