Thursday, March 6, 2008

Private conservationist: Land grabber or saviour?

Private individuals and organisations are buying up large tracts of green space all over the world. Many organisations, such as the Nature Conservancy, support private involvement in conservation. The Nature Conservancy is the largest private nonprofit conservation organization. It has over one million members and protects over 70 million acres worldwide. 

Others are getting anxious. Are private landowners better placed then governments to protect the earth? See this analysis by The Guardian.  

With green space becoming scarcer, one needs flexible mechanisms to reflect its rising value. Private markets do best reflect exchange value and allocates land to the highest bidders, but often raise equity and sustainability concerns. Other values apart from exchange values are also important. This is nothing new. The state versus market debate will not get us very far in this.

If saving the world becomes cheaper, it sounds like good news to me. People value nature and are willing to pay for it. Just make sure that distributional and sustainability concerns are addressed through strong supporting institutions and good governance.  That's where the rub will be, and where we need to thread carefully. 

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