It is well known amongst conservationists that assigning a dollar value to any aspect of nature is fundamentally impossible. Nature performs essential, yet irreplaceable tasks – such as nutrient cycling and oxygen exchange – tasks that, when compared to the value of a new laptop, for instance, fit no such price categorization. As established as this concept may be, are we certain that this is always true? Are there any scenarios where it is appropriate to associate a cost with the conservation of nature? Sure, perhaps ecosystem functions themselves remain priceless, but what if we consider the media? Strange? Farfetched? Maybe not so much.
Many organizations advertise nature and promote the importance of conservation efforts, including those who show the ‘classic’ images I discussed in my most recent post (stranded polar bears, melting glaciers - the list continues). A question now being presented by scientists asks whether or not these companies that profit from presenting nature’s ecosystem services should be required to contribute towards conservation projects. Television shows and movies (such as Animal Planet and Planet Earth) are the big focus of this proposal, considering the amount of money earned through their depictions of nature. Thus, some believe that these profits should be re-invested in nature (on a per-viewer basis) in order to conserve the very thing providing funds in the first place (see the connection?).
There are few environmental issues for which I am a ‘fence-sitter’, but this happens to be one of them. As conservation efforts become more and more crucial in an attempt to protect what is irreplaceable, I believe that investments from corporations benefitting from nature’s services are automatically obligated to contribute to protection of these services. This isn’t to say involvement should necessarily be in the form of direct financial investments, but I do agree that participation in conservation is an appropriate action. On the other hand, it would be disappointing for television and movie companies to steer away from promoting nature in order to avoid costs associated with contribution towards conservation. In fact, this could actually be detrimental to future conservation endeavors.
Perhaps I’m just a bit pessimistic about this, but of all the ways to promote environmental sustainability and conservation, I am not convinced that this will carry much success. Who knows, I may be pleasantly surprised one day.