[Coral-List] Value of Hawaiian Coral Reefs

Steve Mussman sealab at earthlink.net
Sat Nov 12 14:25:58 EST 2011

Bob Bourke’s critique of the NOAA funded study on the economic values
relating to Hawaii’s coral reef ecosystems may be enlightening, but perhaps
not in the way intended. Upon critically examining the study, the science 
applied may well have faults, but the metric used (cost-benefit analysis)
may simply be more convenient than appropriate when applied to the subject 
at hand. 

Understanding that dollar values have commonality doesn’t necessarily mean 
that this form of measure represents the most suitable approach. Limiting the 
debate to descriptions in monetary terms often introduces biases designed to 
benefit one side or another. In this case, it is possible that the $33 billion 
per year reflects an inflated value, but more critical is the fact that it points 
to the realization that there are some things that defy accurate description in 
these limited terms.

How exactly do we objectively place a fair dollar value on a breaching whale or 
even Gene’s giant surfing waves? Maybe we shouldn’t even try and instead begin to 
apply new and different approaches when dealing with issues that may come to 
symbolize an impending ecological collapse. 


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