[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The conventional economic paradigm assumes that tastes and preferences are exogenous to the economic system, and that the economic problem consists of optimally satisfying those preferences. Tastes and preferences usually do not change rapidly and, in the short term, this assumption makes sense. Sustainability is an inherently long-term problem and in the long run it does not make sense to assume tastes and preferences are fixed and given. If preferences are expected to change over time and under the influence of education, advertising, changing cultural assumptions, etc., the old assumption of `consumer sovereignty' is not adequate. Different criteria of optimality are needed. How preferences change, how they relate to the goal of sustainability, and how they can or should be actively influenced to satisfy the new criteria needs to be determined. Ecological economics has emphasized the three rank ordered goals of ecological sustainability, fair distribution, and allocative efficiency. This paper examines how preferences evolve and change over time and the implications of this for developing policies that meet these three goals in democratic societies.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In Spring 1991, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency convened an expert group of ecologists, economists and other social scientists for the purpose of advancing the state of the art of ecosystem valuation methods. This Ecosystem Valuation Forum was organized as a dialogue because it has been clear from the outset that agreement even on the meaning of the term “ecosystem valuation” could not be taken for granted. Individuals from diverse disciplines, and from industry, environmental groups and government agencies disagree about what information about ecosystem services is needed, how it should be used and, therefore, what would constitute an advance in the methods that analysts should employ. The Forum discussed the varied ways in which experts from different disciplines approach valuation, what ecosystem attributes or services are important to value, and the factors that complicate the task of assigning values to ecosystem attributes. The Forum placed particular importance on approaching the problem of ecosystem valuation from the perspective of decision makers. Therefore, members discussed the variety of decision makers who might need valuation information, the controversy over where balancing decisions about costs and benefits should be made, and the implications for what information is needed within different institutional constraints. In addition, agency decision makers operate under real time and resource constraints. Thus, the Forum discussed the need to develop protocols that would guide analysts in a search for decisive information. The Forum concluded that the time is ripe for making new progress in solving some of these problems, while acknowledging that it may not be possible to develop a single unifying definition of value. Instead, the goal would be to understand how various concepts of value are structured, how they relate to each other, and how they can guide us toward a more integrated valuation process. The Forum recommended that next steps in addressing these issues be organized around case studies, particularly those that would enable researchers to improve linkages between ecological and economic methods and to develop improved protocols for valuation studies.