What value – or rather what values - should we give to nature? On Monday 11 July, the Intergovernmental Platform for Scientific Policy on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (Ipbes) provides some answers to this vast question. First of all, making an observation: the value that is mainly attributed to biodiversity, that is, its market value, is largely insufficient to reflect all its contributions to humanity. Nor does it allow us to face the gigantic challenge of the collapse of life. Making political and economic decisions only with a narrow vision of what nature offers, as is the case today, is the opposite “an important factor” at the root of the crisis.
Often presented as “the IPCC of biodiversity”, referring to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPbes adopted, during its plenary session in Bonn, Germany, its assessment report on the estimation of nature values, the result of four years of work and the collaboration of 82 scientists and world experts from different disciplines. The thirty-page “summary for decision makers”, published Monday, was approved by the 139 member governments of this body, giving it significant political weight. These decision makers also validated another report, unveiled on Friday, urging them to sustainably manage the wildlife on which the world’s population depends for its survival.
For this new assessment, Ipbes has focused on the multiple values associated with nature, which vary according to knowledge, languages, cultural traditions or environmental contexts. While some see people and nature as interdependent and part of a single holistic system, others see them as two separate entities. Experts have classified these different approaches into four broad categories: living “from” nature, “with” nature, “in” nature and “like” nature.
“We see nature as a large factory”
Those who consider themselves to live by nature, the researchers explain, emphasize nature’s ability to provide resources to support livelihoods and meet the needs and desires of humans: a river will be rated based on the number of fish caught for food. . Considering oneself as cohabiting with nature recognizes the intrinsic value of non-human living beings – and, for example, a fish’s right to swim freely in a river. The idea of living in nature refers to the importance of the natural environment in building people’s sense of belonging and identity. Finally, the approach to living as nature testifies to a physical, mental and spiritual connection of human beings with their environment: the river can be considered sacred.
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