Frugality and the Intrinsic Value of Nature

Laszlo Zsolnai 'Frugality and the Intrinsic Value of Nature.' , in Frugality and the Intrinsic Value of Nature , eds. Ove Jakobsen, and Laszlo Zsolnai, Emerald, 2017. (This book may be available at: Emerald)

The encyclical letter of Pope Francis, “Praised Be: On the Care of Our Common Home” (Laudato si’) presented an excellent opportunity  to spark a conversation between economics and faith-based discourses on sustainability. The encyclical underlined the human origins of the ecological crisis and proposed fundamental changes in organizing our economic life. Among the important suggestions put forward by the Pope are increased  frugality in consumption and acknowledging the intrinsic value of nature.

Frugality implies rebalancing the spiritual and material values in economic life. This may lead to the rehabilitation of the substantive meaning of the ‘economic’ and the revival of the corresponding logic of sufficiency. Despite their different ontological and anthropological conceptions the ecological position of the Pope’s encyclical has close links with Deep Ecology and Buddhist Economics. Both Deep Ecology and Buddhist Economics point out that emphasizing individuality and promoting the greatest fulfillment of the desires of the individual together lead to destruction. Happiness is linked to wholeness, not to personal wealth.

Mainstream economics  fails to acnowledge the intrinsic value of nature. It is happy to put value on environmental goods and services merely on the basis of a market value determined by competing economic actors. But price, for sure, is an inappropriate  model for assessing the value of natural entities. There is no algorithmic solution to nature’s allocation problems. Decisions and policies related to nature require making qualitative and multiperspective considerations and the proper use of our wisdom, knowledge and experience. Laszlo Zsolnai paper.pdf