Skip to content

Frugality and the Intrinsic Value of Nature

Laszlo Zsolnai’s  paper “Frugality and the Intrinsic Value of Nature” was published in the book “Integral Ecology and Sustainable Business” (Emerald, UK, edited by Ove Jakobsen and Laszlo Zsolnai).

Zsolnai argues that frugality means rebalancing material and spiritual values in economic life. This may lead to both the rehabilitation of the substantive meaning of “economic” and the revival of the corresponding logic of sufficiency. The ecological stance taken in Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato si’” is closely linked to Deep Ecology and Buddhist Economics, despite their different ontological and anthropological conceptions. Both Deep Ecology and Buddhist Economics point out that putting the emphasis on individuality and promoting the greatest fulfillment of individual desires conjointly lead to destruction. We each need to find our greater Self, which is a more inclusive and all encompassing concept than that permitted by the standard approaches to identity. Happiness is linked to wholeness, not to material wealth.

Zsolnai warns that mainstream economics is failing to acknowledge the intrinsic value of nature. Mainstream economics is happy to value environmental goods and services merely on the basis of the market value determined by competing economic actors. But price is an inappropriate mechanism for assessing the value of natural entities. There is no single algorithmic solution to economic allocation problems. Decisions and policies related to nature require incorporating qualitative and non-financial considerations and making proper use of wisdom, knowledge and experience.