When governments make decisions, economic considerations often trump everything else — human well-being, social connections, the health of the environment. According to a new report from the United Nations, this imbalance is driving the global biodiversity crisis and the human suffering associated with it.
“Despite the diversity of nature’s values,” the report says, “most policymaking approaches have prioritized a narrow set of values at the expense of both nature and society, as well as future generations.” It calls for elected officials to take into account a much broader array of values that prioritize sustainability and human thriving.
The far-reaching assessment comes from the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, or IPBES. The group of 82 experts periodically collates research and makes recommendations to stem the accelerating loss of nature, much like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change does for global warming.
The IPBES’s latest report, written over four years, represents a unique attempt to evaluate the varied lenses through which humans view the natural world. Many of these so-called “values of nature” exist outside standard economics, like nature’s well-established psychological benefits. But the report finds that these values have been overshadowed by a shallow set of profit-and-loss considerations: “market-based instrumental values of nature,” as the report puts it, citing nature’s capacity to produce massive quantities of food as an example. Nearly three-quarters of all the studies that IPBES reviewed, published between 2010 and 2020, focused on these market-based values. [Continue reading…]