This blog was originally posted on the website Valuing Nature.

Have a look at this excerpt from a speech last month by Rt Hon James Purnell MP, the new UK Secretary of State for Culture, Media & Sport. Given that it's coming from a government minister, you may need to read it twice.

"There is something else that should be taken for granted: that the arts matter in themselves. Of course, the arts, like sport, are some of the most effective ways of reaching disaffected teenagers, of helping people to think about mental health, of regenerating inner cities or coastal towns.

"But the arts would still matter – and I believe this passionately - even if they did none of those things. They are intrinsically valuable before they are instrumentally so. The arts hold the ring for our national conversation. They are where we find our meanings, individually and collectively.

"As Peter Sellars said recently, the arts have 'the capacity to reach beyond the public self, deep into the private self, and, if we are lucky, to re-energise the public self.' "

Why our reluctance to ascribe a similar set of values to the natural world - as something that has the 'capacity to reach beyond the public self, deep into the private self, and, if we are lucky, to re-energise the public self'?