Ecosystems may not think, at least not in the way that most people would recognize thinking, but people as essential elements of natural systems do think – and need to think more about how they affect natural systems, and how those natural systems in turn affect them back. That was the premise of a WWF-organized panel at the Arctic Circle conference in Iceland.
“How do you get meaningful value for intangible benefits?”
While everybody on the panel recognized that ecosystems have a value in terms of providing food and water, and similar benefits, there are also less tangible values, that may be spiritual, or aesthetic, or cultural that are much more difficult to nail down.
As Gunn-Britt Retter, Saami Council representative explained, those difficulties are magnified when you’re trying to balance benefits of a development, such as a new road, against a cultural benefit. “How do you get meaningful value for intangible benefits?” She asked, “and even if you establish value of a cultural benefit, how do you manage trade-offs across different value systems?”
Those are questions WWF will continue to try to address over the coming months as we continue with projects aimed at finding a way to express the natural and human value of places around the Arctic.