Nearly Geoffrey, nearly

The explicable miracle of Hiware Bazar is just one example among many given in the UN report – dryly entitled The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity – to prove the point that looking after nature makes economic, as well as ecological, sense.

Not quite: what you example shows (an example of careful rainwater harvesting) is that some looking after nature makes economic sense.  And, as usual, the definition of when it does is fairly simple: when we\’re talking about a scarce resource.

For economics only comes into play when we are talking about a scarce resource. We can talk about the economics of fisheries, for example, because we know that Huxley was wrong and that fish themselves, while renewable, are a scarce resource. We don\’t talk about the economics of seawater for there is no, in the face of current demand at least, no scarcity of seawater.

The trouble is that the costs are invisible to conventional economics. \”Not a single bee has ever sent you an invoice,\” says Pavan Sukhdev, the banker who led the study. \”And that is part of the problem – because most of what comes to us from nature is free, because it is not invoiced, because it is not priced, because it is not traded in markets, we tend to ignore it.\”

Entirely agreed that things external to markets aren\’t properly priced: this is why we, or at least I, argue that the thing to do is put a price on them. Something we\’ve known we should be doing since Marshall and Pigou back at the turn of the 20th century….you know, those mainstream neo-classical economists.

And as, in fact, is often done with bees. For we do talk about the economics of bees, there is a business underlying all of that pollination.

The pollination industry in USA is so highly mechanized that train trucks from state to state transport beehives and they are spread to plantations by forklifts and other contraptions. Fortunately, the experts in this country estimate that the cost of pollination to crop farmers is only 1% of the total value of their yield.

So while your basic point, that some environmental measures make good economic sense, is true, you\’re rather going overboard on how new and wondrous this finding is.

Oh, and this?

while some Chinese fruit growers are now having to pay people to pollinate their apple trees.

Sorry, you\’ve been had there by one of those little memes that the ignorant spread. Hand pollination of fruit trees is both normal and ancient. I think that what\’s happened here is that someone who doesn\’t understand historical farming methods has looked upon such an orchard, seen the hand pollination, and declared that it must be because of a lack of bees. Not knowing that, at least in places with low labour costs, it\’s an entirely nromal practice. It is, for example, entirely standard with date palms.

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