Nature: love it or price it?

Yesterday my sister sent me a sermon she had given last week at Trinity College, Cambridge.  The subject of the sermon was Gerald Manley Hopkins, a poet who wrote about the beauty of the natural world.  Here is the 19th century equivalent of a sound bite:

“Nothing is so beautiful as spring —
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;
The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush
The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.”

Hard work, but he’s right.

The same day the World Bank said: “Natural resources such as farmland, biodiversity and forests should come with a price tag in order to encourage governments to make their economic growth plans more environmentally sustainable.”

So that’s two different views of how to protect nature.  Gerald Manley Hopkins says love  it.  World Bank says put a price on it.

Gerald Manley Hopkins has understood the issue more thoroughly than the World Bank, which is not surprising since he was a poet and the World Bank is just made up of economists.  But why didn’t the World Bank say “love it”?

If someone loves nature, then they will respect it and look after it.  If someone doesn’t love nature, then pricing or not, sooner or later they will chop it up and turn it into real estate and roads.

I would add to “love” that people need to “understand” nature; understand the complex umbilical links between nature and ourselves.  That blend of passion and reason will save nature.  Putting prices on things might help a tiny bit, but by definition pricing has no defence against money.  Love and intelligence have.

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