What is the value ($) of a bee? A bat? A mangrove?

dead bees

Want to keep nature from disappearing? Some say you must put a monetary value on it in order to convince those who don’t think the intrinsic value of nature is enough to consider it “worth” anything. What if that part of nature really isn’t worth anything ($), do we keep it?

One of my favorite NPR radio shows, Radiolab, explores why you should, or shouldn’t put a price tag on nature. One of the more interesting segments is the “natural” experiment of an inadvertent removal bees from an apple orchard in China, where farmers realized bees were doing the actual pollinating. Ok, that seems pretty obvious to most, but with no pollinators, the farmers had people go out and hand pollinate the apple blossoms, which resulted in an increased production rate. Humans are better pollinators than bees. So then, why do we need bees?

This segment, on the value of nature, is part of a larger episode that talks about “worth”. The other two episodes are also pretty powerful, especially the one on pharmaceuticals.


About Pat Cain

I like discovering things that are non-random. As a biologist, I suppose that's my main job: to find and describe occurrences of non-randomness.
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5 Responses to What is the value ($) of a bee? A bat? A mangrove?

  1. Divya says:

    After all the back and forth, I love that final reason about harming our own creativity. That cannot be priced and therefore, seals the deal for me. I also find it amazing that RadioLab manages always to squeeze so much information in such a short time and do such a fabulous job of synthesising and providing fairly unbiased analyses.


  2. Pat Cain says:

    What’s even more amazing is that they do it every episode. Check out the pharmaceutical segment from this episode. I’ve been thinking a lot about the situation where it’s possible to cure someone of hepatitis C, but that drug is being withheld because it cost too much to research and develop.


    Liked by 1 person

  3. Divya says:

    View story at Medium.com

    “the point of basic science is to know what’s unknown, and we see that the dumbest question requests the unknowable value of the unknowable consequences of an unknown thing. Note that only two of these are “unknowable.” The third, the “thing,” is only “unknown.””


  4. Pat Cain says:

    Ah, and the ‘dumbest question’ is, “what’s the economical value?”


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