Abstract: Economists have been thinking about the multitude of ways in which the environment contributes to ‘utility’ for well over 70 years and they have developed numerous methods of monetizing those values in different situations. But it was, arguably, not until the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA) changed the discourse and encouraged people to think about the contribution which ecosystem services (ES) make to wellbeing, that methods of valuing the environment started to gain broad support from non-economists. Some of this newfound support has simply increased the number and profile of valuation studies undertaken. But broader interest has also facilitated the incorporation of social science perspectives about wellbeing and life satisfaction into the valuation literature. Most relevant to this presentation is the notion that wellbeing, or ‘life satisfaction’ (which psychologists have developed reliable measurement scales) can be used as a workable (and cardinally measurable) proxy for utility – the implication being that one can examine the relationship between measures of life satisfaction, income and ES to learn more about the ‘value’ of ES. Researchers at JCU (including PhD’s and postdocs, from several different schools/colleges) have been using some of these life-satisfaction methods to learn more about the ‘value’ of ES in various managerial contexts and geographical settings including: Australia (four separate studies), the Philippines, Costa Rica and China. This presentation synthesizes findings from those investigations, noting key lessons learned, problems encountered, and issues in need of much further research.
Bio: Professor Natalie Stoeckl has a BEc from the Australian National University (ANU), a MEc from JCU and a PhD from ANU. She spent many years working at the University of Canberra (while doing her PhD), and then moved to CSIRO, before taking up a position at JCU in 2003. She is particularly interested in the environmental and distributional/equity issues associated with economic growth in rural / remote locations. Although fully ‘schooled’ in mainstream neoclassical economics, she feels most at home when working in multidisciplinary teams, and thinks of herself as an almost ‘lapsed’ (or at least heterodox) economist.