Nature as a Commodity

Van Mensvoort
May 14th 2010

Nature conservation organizations – like the WWF and Greenpeace – typically present nature as a commodity that has become increasingly scarce and will be used up altogether if we don’t act quickly.

Although this depiction intuitively makes sense, it seems to conflict with the idea of nature as pristine & untouched, which is promoted by the same organizations: How is it possible to perceive nature as untouched and consumed at the same time?

Presumably, the ‘do not consume nature’ campaigns should be interpreted as a critique on individuals and corporations who use up environmental value as a commodity. From that perspective things makes sense again, however, there is more to say about the tension between nature as untouched versus nature as a commodity.

Possibly this tension lies at the very root of our current environmental crisis. Exactly the romantic desire to perceive our natural environment as pristine, untouched and undefined, makes it trouble-free (read: cheap) to consume: No ownership, no responsibility.

Should we, in order to save the environment, begin to define it as in terms of value, ownership, e.g. as a commodity?

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What is your view on the coronavirus?


Siri Beerends: I really embrace the idea that viruses can teach us a lesson in modesty. It is necessary that our position as the dominant species on the planet is being challenged. I also agree that it is a mistake to think that we are becoming Gods. But unfortunately, this is actually what is happening now. Corona doesn’t teach us to be modest, it teaches us how we can -as quickly as possible- go back to business as usual: saving our capitalistic economy.

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