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return to Sound Waves article: Scientists and the Media: Impacts of Sea-level Rise

Robert Costanza and Daniel Grossman

Economic Impacts

Clip 2: Communicating by using new terms, redefining conventional models

Ecological economics professor Robert Costanza discusses the difference between our conventional perception of the term "economy"—focused on the exchange of money—and a broader view, in which "economy" includes the contributions of nature.

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Robert Costanza: We can also look at where that economic activity is; and from that nighttime satellite imagery, we can get a pretty good picture of the economic activity. This is converted into GNP [gross national product] at a 1-square-kilometer (km2) resolution. You can sort of see it over here for the northeast corridor, and you can see it here for the whole planet.

So, where is that conventional economic activity? But, I think it brings up the question of "Is that the economy? Is that really what we're talking about? Is this the economic activity?" Most people, when you say "the economy," they think of just the market, just the things that are captured in GNP, and I would argue…

Daniel Grossman: This is where money is being spent? [referring to maps on screen]

Robert Costanza: This is where, yeah, where money is being exchanged, and, but there's much—if you think of the economy in a broader sense of all the things that contribute to human well-being, which is I think a more appropriate definition of what the economy is—then that market economy is only a relatively small component of this larger, real economy. The real economy includes the contributions of nature, of natural capital, as we call it, ecosystem services. So, it's not the environment versus the economy; it's the environment is a major asset, a major part of our capital assets, in the real economy. As are our social capital assets: all of our interactions between people, our networks, our institutions. Those are all part of the larger real economy that don't show up in this marketed part of the economy.


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cover story:
Corals, Habitats, and Paleoclimate in the Drake Passage

Scientists and the Media: Impacts of Sea-level Rise

USGS NWRC Celebrates National Women's History Month

USGS Promoted at National Science Teachers Association Conference

Meetings Field Trip for Association of American Geographers Meeting

USGS Modeling Conference

Publications New Poster Depicts Complex Bathymetry in Northern Monterey Bay

August 2008 Publications List U. S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
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