So, Planetmoney did an interesting post on July 30th, about the environmental costs of the BP spill. It's an interesting piece. As we've discussed environmental costs are not included in GDP. One of the reasons for this is because its difficult to effectively cost the effects on the environment.
In this case, they decided to price a pelican. In point of fact, a much more valuable way to have done it was to tally up the price of shrimp in the Gulf of Mexico, but hey, I guess they wanted something that was more esoteric in value.
There first stop was to a bird lover, who paid up to $500 for a Pelican. One of the hosts scoffed at this, saying that what a rare bird collector and preservationist would pay isn't the best estimate. The second stop was Hollywood. Hollywood, being in the business of accurately fabricating real life, rents pelicans. That price was even higher, at $4,500 a day.
But here's where it gets interesting. They talked to Gardner Brown, of the University of Washington, about his work valuing a wild duck. This theory, called contingent valuation makes some interesting points: 1) Nature is a public resource, ostensibly, we are ALL owners. So while, we may not value a pelican particularly highly, maybe a few cents, in aggregate, the value of that pelican can be quite high. Also, and this is the reason for this post, Brown, whose work was done for licensing and wildlife hunting issues, would go up to hunters and ask what price would they pay for one more duck. One of the planetmoney hosts again scoffed at this, implying that hunters aren't necessarily experts, or that they wouldn't necessarily be honest. He further stated that a survey isn't the same as a live market. While these are good questions, I think a really obvious point would be that: