Biodiversity—the diversity of living beings, including plant and animal species, ecosystems and genetic variation—provides the foundations of our life on earth. And yet, more and more ecosystems are being damaged, or even destroyed. Entire species are dropping in numbers or becoming extinct. The main factors behind this loss of biodiversity, aside from demographic growth, spring from the huge impact our economic system has on it: damage to habitats, pollution of every sort, increasing overexploitation of resources and climate change. Desert areas are on the increase and in the depths of the ocean entire swathes of coral reefs are dying. This situation affects us all, in terms of healthcare costs, security and numerous aspects relating to well-being and quality of life. However, they particularly affect the poorest households, in locations such as rural and coastal areas, who are often dependent on ecosystems for their survival. Preserving biodiversity and the sustainable management of ecosystems are thus partly linked to eliminating poverty. Citizens therefore have a duty to ask their governments and businesses for measures and initiatives to protect this irreplaceable natural treasure.
One of the approaches adopted in this field is the economic assessment of biodiversity and ecosystem services that can be used to guide their management and economic decision-making. This assessment concerns the consequences of the changes that result from alternative management options rather than the values of the actual ecosystems. This approach is one solution among others that can be put in place. It has the advantage of recognizing the importance of what in economic language is called “natural capital” as the basis of economic development, but also of putting an end to the “zero price” of natural resources that are not accounted for, for example, in national accounts or the price of goods. It does, of course , have some limitations: it does not challenge the growth principle, it establishes the principle of scarcity (of resources) without showing in detail that it is the result of an economic system based on immediate profits, etc. It only makes sense in contexts where resources no longer have any social and cultural value for the community.
The SSE is part of a broader vision advocating a humanist and sustainable development: experiments in community management of forests and water, ressourceries [not-for-profit organizations with mandates to turn waste into resources] and waste management, sustainable energy solutions, territorial management, ideas on common goods, and so on all point towards a more profoundly democratic approach to protecting resources, by means of dialogue, deliberation and collective decision-making.
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2 case studies
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