Many experts believe that a basic cause underlying the loss or unsustainable use of biological resources throughout the planet is the fact that societies have failed to value the environment and the goods and services it sustains. Yet measuring these values is a formidable challenge as it needs a good understanding of the various benefits that biological resources provide to people, as well as knowledge of the complex techniques required to measure their value.
Direct benefits are economic values that people place on the utilization of a resource. Indirect benefits are indicators of the economic activity generated by the use of a resource.
Information on economic benefits is a potent tool used to help decision makers to achieve sustainable development policies and programs by :-
(1) demonstrating how the loss of biological resources results in a loss of benefits to people and hence constitutes an economic and social cost to communities;
(2) developing economic incentives for those who maintain or enhance biological resources and disincentives for those who degrade important ecosystems; and
(3) addressing the need for a country to revise or “green” its national accounts in order to reflect the significant contributions that biological resources make to the sustainable income of the country.
The vast majority of those who engage in wildlife-related activities derive considerable enjoyment from their participation. For hunters, it could be the challenge and excitement of stalking game; for bird-watchers, it could be the satisfaction of spotting a rare bird or of finding a species new to them. In order to experience these kinds of interactions with wildlife, people should be prepared to pay for the enjoyment they receive from wildlife.
This total willingness to pay for the enjoyment provided by wildlife annually is composed of two distinct components: the actual expenditures incurred to participate in wildlife-related activities, and an additional amount, a net economic value, for the value of the enjoyment received but not paid for.
This net economic value is a reflection of the importance that participants attach to wildlife-related activities, and it is analogous to the economic values of other goods and services that people depend on to meet their needs.
Indirect benefits consist of impacts on the economy that result from the expenditures made by participants on wildlife-related activities (e.g., on travel, accommodation, hotel, food, transportation, equipment, etc.).
The world and its ecosystems are highly complex, dynamic, and often unpredictable. Finding sustainability requires constant observation (not periodic measuring), careful analysis (not common denominators), and regular course correction (not annual claims of progress). It is not advisable to make sustainability easy with some convenient simple measurements which can be bundled together into some tidy “index”.
There is no scientific justification for using any indicators to determine sustainability, even though indicators have been widely used in the context of environmental regulations to provide broad targets for compliance.
Indicators can sometime be deceptive, For instance air quality indicators do not accurately indicate equity in the distribution of clean air between middle class and poor residents of a city. They do not tell us anything about what actions are causing a change in air quality.
They also fail to show whether reductions in one air contaminant may be related to increases in other pollutants. Nor can they estimate future trends. These key elements of sustainable development — equity, integration, and longevity — cannot be measured using a traditional indicator approach.
Just as when applied to regulations, indicators can be helpful in our efforts to measure and influence progress in implementing action strategies for sustainable development. An indicator can often reveal whether people, organizations, or governments are taking desirable (or undesirable) action.
A good indicator should also be able to indicate what steps ought to be taken to improve performance in implementing a plan. Indeed a good plan should determine the choice or use of suitable indicators, and not vice versa.