Society is faced with a fundamental difficulty when prioritizing how, and if, to address issues related to environmental quality: determining the value of environmental “goods and services” such as biodiversity, habitat, and carbon sequestration. Even when there is consensus amongst stakeholders that all these natural services are important, given there are no explicit markets for such goods revealing a price in common units, determining which issue should receive public attention (and funds) may depend on how the value of each service is estimated and communicated.
The prominence of climate change in the political sphere relative to other concerns is investigated by environment correspondent for the BBC, Richard Black in Hijacked by Climate Change? Biodiversity is not in the forefront, according to economist Pavan Sukhdev, because “climate change is already occupying mind space and heart space,” suggesting even the most shocking figures coming out of non-market valuation research on ecosystem services may not be sufficient to advance the biodiversity agenda without also appealing to our sociological imagination.
Population growth, framed as a contributor to stress on natural resources and environmental quality, may be absent from the public debate because it is all too good at activating our imagination. In Black’s article Jonathan Porrit, a former government advisor, suggests discussing population makes people uncomfortable because it raises issues about religion, culture, and male dominance.