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'Mathematics maybe, but not money’: on balance sheets, numbers and nature in ecological accounting

Sullivan, S and Hannis, M (2017) ''Mathematics maybe, but not money’: on balance sheets, numbers and nature in ecological accounting.' Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal. ISSN 0951-3574 (Forthcoming)

Abstract

Purpose: To consider and compare different ways of using numbers to value aspects of nature-beyond-the-human through analysis of cases of ecological and natural capital accounting practices in the UK that create standardised numerical-monetary values for beyond-human natures. In addition, to contrast underlying ontological and ethical assumptions of these arithmetical approaches in ecological accounting with those associated with Pythagorean nature-numbering practices and fractal geometry. In doing so, to draw out distinctions between arithmetical and geometrical ontologies of nature and their relevance for ‘valuing nature’. Design/methodology/approach: Close reading and review of policy texts and associatedcalculations in 1) UK natural capital accounts for ‘opening stock’ inventories in 2007 and 2014, and 2) in the experimental implementation of biodiversity offsetting in land-use planning in England. Tracking the iterative calculations of biodiversity offset requirements in a specific planning case. Conceptual review, drawing on and contrasting different numbering practices being applied so as to generate numerical-economic values for natures-beyond-thehuman. Findings: In the cases of ecological accounting practices analysed here, the natures thus numbered are valued and ‘accounted for’ using arithmetical methodologies that create commensurability, thereby facilitating appropriation of the value so created. Notions of nonmonetary value, and associated practices, are marginalised. Instead of creating standardisation and clarity, however, the accounting practices we consider for natural capital accounts and biodiversity offsetting create nature-signalling numbers that are struggled over and contested. Originality: This is the first critical engagement with the specific policy texts and case applications considered here, and, we believe, the first attempt to contrast arithmetical and geometrical numbering practices in their application to the understanding and valuing of beyond-human natures.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: mathematics, money, numbering, accounting, balance sheets, value, nature beyond-the-human, natural capital, biodiversity offsetting, Pythagoras, fractal geometry, ethics
Divisions: College of Liberal Arts
Date Deposited: 13 Jul 2017 16:34
Last Modified: 13 Jul 2017 16:58
URI: http://researchspace.bathspa.ac.uk/id/eprint/9770
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