This article was originally published on Ensia

“Have you ever paid more to buy something labeled “organic” because you thought it was the right thing to do for nature? Looked for a “recycled” or Forest Stewardship Council label on a paper product? Paid a fee to visit a national park?

If so, you know what it’s like to express your appreciation and support for nature in monetary terms. Does that mean that you “put a price-tag on nature” — that you think nature’s worth is the extra dollar you paid for that organic avocado? Of course not. By taking these actions, you didn’t define what nature is worth in any sweeping, lasting way. But you did show that you value the Earth, its ecosystems, and the ability of those systems to give people food, shelter, recreation and so much more.

But too often, conservationists dismiss earnest efforts to engage more people in acknowledging nature’s value. I work for The Natural Capital Project, an organization that seeks to help people value how much we depend on nature and then factor this information into decisions about the use of natural resources. NatCap’s mission — indeed the concept of natural capital more generally — is, unfortunately, often terribly misunderstood. I’ve read many an essay and endured public talks that characterize natural capital work as some kind of dangerous effort to reduce all of nature into a dollar amount that can then be sold off to the highest bidder or otherwise used and abused. Most recently, the International Union for Conservation of Nature World Conservation Congress, which I attended in Honolulu in September, was peppered with conversations and even a presentation suggesting that the natural capital approach is a literal sell-out on “real” conservation. Nothing could be further from the truth…”

Read on at: Ensia.