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The Environment as a Commodity

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This paper addresses problems related to transferring market concepts to non-market domains. More specifically it is about fallacies following from the use of the commodity concept in environmental valuation studies. First of all, the standard practice tends to misconstrue the ethical aspects related to environmental choices by forcing them into becoming ordinary trade-off problems. Second, the commodity perspective ignores important technical interdependencies within the environment and the relational character of environmental goods. These are all properties that have made many such goods escape the commoditisation pressure of markets in the first place. Further, it is shown that these interdependencies are the source of some of the ethical dilemmas observed. Finally, inherent characteristics of the environment tend to make the concept of the margin, so indispensable to economic calculus, either difficult or irrelevant to define. The commodity 'fiction' twists the perception of the environment from systems preservation to items use or transformation. This is a problem of increased importance as we approach potential systems perturbations.

Keywords: economic theory; environmental ethics; systems theory; valuation

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: November 1, 2000

More about this publication?
  • Environmental Values is an international peer-reviewed journal that brings together contributions from philosophy, economics, politics, sociology, geography, anthropology, ecology and other disciplines, which relate to the present and future environment of human beings and other species. In doing so we aim to clarify the relationship between practical policy issues and more fundamental underlying principles or assumptions.

    Environmental Values has an impact factor (2015) of 1.311.
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