At the halfway point in our Top 10 Sustainability related TED Talks, we have one of my personal favorites (because this is an issue I think about a lot), a discussion of the economic value of natural systems by one of the preeminent thinkers on the subject, Pavan Sukhdev.
Sukhdev is a leader in the field of environmental economics and one of the most influential thinkers tackling the issues of building a sustainable future without dismantling the 21st century economy. In this video he shares some of his research on The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) Project. I am among those who believe that this is some of the most important work in the world to be done today.
Some people are very uncomfortable with the idea of putting an economic value on nature, believing that this will reduce nature in our view or that it is an extension of the 18th century notion of man's dominance over nature. I feel that it is of the utmost importance to account for the value of nature in every system of thought, because when economists think about nature in their models, they need a language to think about its value. The spiritual, aesthetic, and psychological value of nature must be accounted for in other systems of thought, for they cannot fit in the economists model. If nature is valued in all systems in all languages, then we can all agree about conservation, even if we don't agree about the why.