What is the price of clean water? How much are we prepared to chip in to allow warthogs to run around freely? How much does all that countryside actually matter to modern people like us? These are questions that concern many people and biodiversity is now also the focus of the Nordic Council Environment Prize which has just announced the candidates for this year's prize.
We often take nature for granted, but that also has a price, and the Nordic Council will now reward enthusiasts striving for more diversity in nature.
The Nordic Council Environment Prize, worth DKK 350,000, this year rewards an individual or an organisation which has worked to boost biological diversity in the Nordic Region or internationally.
There have been 52 nominations, including 17 from Sweden, 12 from Finland, seven from Iceland, seven from Norway, six from Denmark, and one each from the Faroe Islands and Åland. Finally, there is a joint Danish-Swedish nomination.
The field of candidates includes a large number of individuals and enthusiasts, nature preservation organisations and organic farmers, but also a number of somewhat more traditional nominations such as associations for fishermen, hunters and scouts.
The candidates nominated for the prize will be announced on 16 April and the prize winner will be announced on 22 May, on the UN Day for Cultural Diversity. The Environment Prize will be awarded at the Nordic Council's annual Session.
A new report from the UN Panel on Global Sustainability, attended by amongst others the EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard and Finland's outgoing President Halonen, focuses on placing a value on a series of 'hidden' costs in the economy, such as the many benefits nature offers, seemingly for free.
The report calls for establishing new indicators for sustainability as a supplement to traditional thinking about GNP, a subject that will also be discussed at the UN Summit Rio+20 in the summer.
The Nordic Council Environment Committee - the elected MPs - and the Nordic Council of Ministers will both attend the summit in Rio. The focus here will not just be on costs, but also on the opportunities created by a green economy.
The Council of Ministers also co-operates with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) to highlight the problem of scarcity of water resources on the planet. This is happening through a competition "Drop by drop" in which artists and graphic designers from the whole of Europe are asked to visualise water waste and improved resource efficiency.
The Nordic Council's Environment Prize has thus raised a highly topical subject, which will also be the focus of a number of Nordic debates later in the year.
See the nominations for the Nordic Council Environment Prize 2012.
Thomas Fraser firstname.lastname@example.org