The natural environment is valuable but not infinitely valuable

It has been argued in the conservation literature that giving conservation absolute priority over competing interests would best protect the environment. Attributing infinite value to the environment or claiming it is ‘priceless’ are two ways of ensuring this priority (e.g. Hargrove 1989; Bulte and van Kooten 2000; Ackerman and Heinzerling 2002; McCauley 2006; Halsing and Moore 2008). But such proposals would paralyse conservation efforts. We describe the serious problems with these proposals and what they mean for practical applications, and we diagnose and resolve some conceptual confusions permeating the literature on this topic.
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