By Stephanie Hemphill, Minnesota Public Radio
Scientists in Minnesota are trying to do something that may be impossible: put a dollar value on nature.
Nature performs many important functions that benefit humans — not just offering beauty but cleaning water, taming floods and pollinating crops. Some researchers think it's time to put a dollar value on those natural processes.
University of Minnesota economic researcher Steve Polasky is building on ideas first presented in the field of applied economics back in the 1960s. The idea is kind of a merger of ecology and economics to identify services that nature provides, and assign a monetary value to those services.
Polasky's approach, which he calls "full-cost accounting," involves tracking all the consequences of a particular activity, not just the intended results.
The way he looks at it, nature has assets — he calls it "natural capital" — like minerals and timber. But Polasky said it's time to focus on something less obvious: the processes inherent in nature that provide benefits for people. READ MORE >>