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What Value have Natural Assets?

When politicians, economists and environmentalists come to the same conclusion, it is certainly worth taking note. In recent weeks there has been much talk about ‘natural assets’ being recognized as having a financial value and to be taken into account in economic and social decision making. Mark Carney, ex-Governor of the Bank of England spoke at length of this in a recent Reith lecture on the radio.

That something as difficult to quantify as scenery, horizons, silence, the company of animals and the well-being and feel-good benefits that emanate from these things, can be valued in monetary terms is a refreshing concept but difficult to comprehend. How much do you put on a summer sunset or a bluebell wood? What is easier to understand is the converse, the real cost that follows damaging or losing any one of them.

What has this to do with the mega windfarm proposed for our Annandale Hills? Perhaps quite a lot. With global warming threatening civilization, steps certainly had to be taken by all countries to cut carbon emissions .Scotland quickly recognized windpower as being her best option. It was clean, renewable and there was an abundance of wind on hand. The thousands of wind turbines that dot our hills today are the result of this decision. Dumfries and Galloway is an area particularly affected.

The case for windfarms was well founded in the first instance but the level of its adoptance has exposed several downsides, the major one being its visual and physical intrusiveness on the landscape. Many people recognized this from the start but any opposition was quickly doused by compensatory payments to the communities in which they were to be installed.

But things have changed. With the suggestion that a value should be attached to natural assets, together with a widespread acceptance that the planetary crisis in which we find ourselves is a result of our own long term abuse of the environment, fresh thinking has been brought to bear on how best we can solve our problems.

One step forward might be to create a better balance of clean energy sources using technology that is less disruptive to the landscape and livelihoods than wind turbines. With the broadened view of ‘value’ together with a heightened ethical regard for the ‘natural world’, progress can be made.

There are heartening signs that this change of thought is actually occurring in the windfarm industry. Right next door to us in Moffat, we have the community of Boreland resisting the Scoop Hill windfarm proposal and not far away the Leadhills community has recently persuaded the planners to heed their pleas to turn down the windfarm proposed for their area .

It appears that people are already seeing ‘value’ in the countryside in which they live. The people in these two villages considered that financial compensation could not measure up to the loss of their environment. They have their own reasons for reaching this decision. Some see ‘value’ in the unspoiled countryside, the opportunity it affords them to ‘get away from it all’, find solace and inspiration as their forbears did. Others perhaps, ‘value’ the quiet, dark skies at night or in living close to nature and the natural order of things or they just enjoy living in the friendly, intimate atmosphere of a small community free of a tangle of roads and busyness. Whatever it is, they all share one thing - they see a ‘value’ in living where they are which cannot be measured in pound notes, and that opinion, according to Mr. Carney and his political and environmental friends, should be taken into account when the viability and appropriateness of a new development is being considered.

Gtah