Editorial: October 2017

Value, Price and Environment

Mangue – Ilha de Itaparica – 2015 (Foto: Karine Veiga / RHIOS)

In economics, the connections between value and price are often discussed. Despite the common use as a synonym, in a more technical context where the hermeneutics is configured as an element of relevance for the discussion, it seeks to identify many times the connections that convert subjective values into prices, objectives and measurable ones.

Contributing to this discussion and attempting to eliminate excess subjectivity to the value of the term, this is categorized for a better understanding of the monetization process. So it appears, the social value, the cultural value, and the economic value, among others. This last category reduces the subjectivity of value to the elements that can be appropriated by the productive process. In this sense, the cultural value of any region can be reduced the possibilities of exploration of it, through tourism.

Similarly, still in the context of economic science, sometimes the terms environment and natural resources are fused. However, by making use of hermeneutics it becomes possible to identify the subtleties that confer specificity on each of these terms, again reducing the meaning from the look of scarcity and the production process. In other words, from the point of view of the economy, the scarce or passive elements of scarcity available by the environment that has the possibility of appropriation as input or raw material become more relevant. Thus, the source of the São Francisco River would not be directly a natural resource, although it is the “responsible” for the waters that move the turbines of large hydropower plants such as Paulo Afonso.

Thus, several elements appear for deep and endless discussions. The environment, as an element of analysis, is extremely vast and multidisciplinary. The different approaches of biology, geography, physics, or hydrology hardly look like to each other or with or with economic science itself, thus there are many dissonances and few convergences, none of them among the many other areas of knowledge that explore the theme, can be classified as “the most important’’.

The similarities and specificities inherent in the terms of value, price, and environment, and natural sources reveal a complex interaction that causes conflicts and misunderstandings in the technical discussions about this matter and, consequently about the policies and other regulations that attempt to regulate the decision-making process. Monetizing punishments resulting from the waste of water or the harmful effects of pollution becomes a controversy that mixes values, in a broad and restricted sense, with the understanding of what is or is not a “natural resource” and not as a simple (!!!) environment element. Thus, pricing the electricity to be generated by Belo Monte is considered the price of the service and the works, denying the value of the water resource used since there is no scarcity in that region.

These discussions pass through all issues related to sustainability, understood as a characteristic of actions that allow the satisfaction of current needs, without compromising the satisfaction of future needs. Sustainability imposes the need to recognize the “economic value” of natural resources regardless of their scarcity. In addition, the intergenerational commitment inherent in the term requires multidisciplinary and mutual respect between the various professionals and lay people involved, thus strengthening the need for “more value” and “less price”

Telma Teixeira.
RHIOS October 2017
(translation from portuguese by Leila FONTOURA)

Read other texts  by Telma Teixeira