Econopoly: On Ecosystems and Economics

Econopoly: Phase One of Ecology Games 2012

The original game of Monopoly was invented by a Quaker woman called Elizabeth Magie in 1903 (and originally called The Landlord’s Game). Elizabeth Magie’s game intended to demonstrate the injustices of Henry George’s Single Tax on land but instead Parker Brothers bought the rights and made a game about buying property, making monopolies and beating other players by charging them rent.

Econopoly is about the commodification of the natural world. Presently, ecological ‘services’ are being given financial value in a desperate effort to convince industrialists to acknowledge the importance of Nature. The financialisation of ‘ecosystem services’ is based on the belief this will help protect biodiversity. But does assigning ecosystems an economic value really work?

Consider the recent The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) report, which estimates a total economic value of insect pollination worldwide at €153 billion (Gallai et al. 2009 in TEEB, 2010: p.8). It’s a high number, but does this number actually reflect the value of pollinating insects? Considering that we are dependent on functioning ecological systems, surely these ‘ecosystem services’ and the pollinating insects which are a vital part of these ecosystems are in fact priceless.

It’s no small thing to bring nature into the space where everything must prove its financial worth. We simply do not have the scientific capacity to measure all of the life-sustaining services provided by nature. What is possible to know for sure is that there will be no financial system to create this human construct we call money without the benefit of a stable climate, clean water and healthy local ecosystems. The paradox remains that in attempting to protect nature by assigning it’s services economic values, we reinforce the idea that the only thing that matters is the economic impact of a particular course of action. ‘Priceless’ is a concept that is quickly being destroyed as the scope of the market expands. 

Econopoly is one of several projects proposed for Ecology Games 2012 – a series of games aiming to provide a counter narrative during the 2012 Olympic Games.

3 thoughts on “Econopoly: On Ecosystems and Economics

  1. It`s a good game. Probably you can put somewhere Greece, Portugal, Italy as an example of economy not to follow and admire. Now European Leaders must play this game want it or not.
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