Can You Put A Price On Wildlife?

Yet again it seems, that money is valued more than the future of our wildlife’s survival in this country. Recently, the RSPB have been campaigning to protect Coul Links, a unique habitat and one of the last of it’s kind in Scotland, against the threat of a luxury golf course. RSPB are backed by Scottish National Heritage, Buglife, Butterfly Conservation Scotland, Plantlife Scotland, the Marine Conservation Society, the National Trust for Scotland and the Scottish Wildlife Trust, and thousands of concerned members of the public (click here to help the campaign).

Pyramidal orchid
Plants and trees play an important part in creating a habitat for insects, birds and animals

But money talks, and local councillors have left the decision to the Scottish Government after failing to make their own decision based on the information put forward to them.

‘But what harm can a golf course do to the local environment?’ Funny you should ask that.

A recent article published by the BBC has reported that Foveran Links, a SSSI (site of special scientific interest), has been irreversibly destroyed with no prospect of recovery by the Trump owned Menie Estate golf course.

“Most of its important geomorphological features have been lost or reduced to fragments.”

So, back in 2008 when SNH warned that the golf course would cause these effects to the wider environment, how was this allowed to pass? How did we lose another space for nature? A ‘greenwashing’ of a varied and highly valuable habitat.

Money.

‘Planning permission was granted on the basis that the potential economic benefit would outweigh environmental harm.’

And here lies the problem. Our politicians are valuing money over the environment, and the recommendations by our conservation community. So in order for them to take notice, do we need to put a price on nature?

Oxeye Daisy
Biodiversity helps all species from the ground up

I can’t see us going round putting price tags on badgers and daisies – but I think that we need to recognise what value wildlife gives the wider community, be it monetary or for our living standards. The more we lose these spaces, the faster we are losing our connection with nature, and it’s a cycle which is putting our native flora and fauna on the brink.

I noticed recently that a ‘Save The Trees’ group in the UK had a campaign where they put a price on street trees – using a system called CAVAT whereby a value of the tree is worked out based on it’s species, size, placement (for tourism or noise regulation) and biodiversity (species who thrive because of the tree being there). You can read more about the scheme here, but I think it’s a great step forward for councils to be able to weigh up the value of a habitat vs say, planning permission for a golf course.

Another way of this being used could be to protect our road verges, and to make our parks more valuable for our wild neighbours, which are currently ‘greenwashed’ (whereby the diversity of a habitat is taken away and replaced by just grass). Keeping established trees would increase the park’s value, and in turn, provide more spaces for nature. Wildflower would benefit communities by increasing the curb appeal of an area if managed properly.

If it’s necessary to give wildlife a value, then that’s definitely an option. It would be great if we lived in a world where we didn’t have to monetise what is left of our natural spaces, but money talks. And if we can use it as a string in our bow to protect those spaces then it’s welcome.

To take action against this happening again, visit the petition here. 
Nature can’t get angry, we need to get angry on it’s behalf.

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