24 Southeast Asians Participate in Short Course on Values of Biodiversity and Ecosystems
Twenty-four graduate students, junior faculty members, and research staff from Indonesia (2), Myanmar (4), and the Philippines (18) attended a Short Course on Values and Institutions of Biodiversity and Ecosystems held on 9-12 November 2010 at SEARCA.
Organized by SEARCA in cooperation with the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) School of Environmental Science and Management (SESAM), the course was conducted by Dr. Franz Gatzweiler, a German Senior Scientist at Center for Development Research (ZEF), Bonn, Germany. At ZEF, he teaches “Introduction to Ecological Economics” and the interdisciplinary course on boundary concept “Value and Valuation.” He is also Lecturer at the Department of Economic and Technological Change, University of Bonn where he teaches development economics.
The course was funded by the Food Security Center (FSC) project of the University of Hohenheim, which is part of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) program “Exceed” and is supported by DAAD and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). SEARCA is one of the strategic partners of the FSC.
The course focused on addressing loss of biodiversity and ecosystem goods by understanding market failure, or the blindness of the market towards the values of nature, and conducting economic valuation.
This is the idea behind the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) study, which is a “major international initiative to draw attention to the global economic benefits of biodiversity, to highlight the growing costs of biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation, and draw together expertise from the fields of science, economics, and policy to enable practical actions moving forward.”
It was acknowledged nonetheless in the course that “the economic model of human behavior and the features of biodiversity are modeled too simply and do not take account of system complexity and value plurality, although both have been explicitly recognized by the Convention on Biological Diversity… Despite its usefulness in expressing value in one unifying language understood by all, the problem with economic valuation is that underlying the attempt to attach a value to biodiversity components are perceptions of value and ethics held by economics itself… The meaning of ethics is therefore essential for conserving biodiversity, as ethics reflects worldviews and norms of how societies think the world around us is supposed to be and we should decide.”
In the course, Dr. Gatzweiler, likewise delved into “understanding values as mechanisms to reproduce existing institutions, such as the market, which leads to the second order question of which value articulating institutions we choose. It is a choice we need to make to escape the predominant and invasive culture of valuing purely economically.”
In his remarks during the closing program of the course, Dr. Gil C. Saguiguit, Jr., SEARCA Director, said he would like to upscale this short course, which was jointly organized by SEARCA and UPLB, to a regional level in collaboration with University of Hohenheim and University of Bonn so that other universities in Southeast Asia, particularly the University Consortium, could also take part in offering the course.
As a center of excellence in development collaboration, the FSC’s mission is to make effective and innovative scientific contributions in research, teaching, and policy advice to eradicate hunger and achieve food security in collaboration with partner Higher Education Institutions in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, as well as national and international development and research organizations. The FSC activities deal with issues of sustainable food availability, food access, food use, and food utilization. (Leah Lyn D Domingo)