Earth Day 2015 finds the planet in ecological crisis due to species extinction, climate change, soil degradation, polluted oceans and freshwater depletion. So what’s to be done?
Quantify the true value of nature’s stocks (natural capital) and nature’s flows (ecosystem services), argue former Friends of the Earth director Tony Juniperand Jonny Hughes, CEO of the Scottish Wildlife Trust and co-founder of the World Forum on Natural Capital. Only then will the powerful realize it is in all our interests to halt destruction: that was the message they delivered at the Edinburgh Science Festival last week.
What price for Nature? Well, for example, insects provide $152 billion of ecosystem services by pollinating the plants we eat, says the UN study The Economics of Ecosystems & Biodiversity (TEEB). Forests provide freshwater, scrub the air clean and host plants that make medicines. Halving deforestation would yield a profit of $3.7 trillion every year.
Don’t be naive, countered John O’Neill, professor of political ecology at the University of Manchester. Putting a price on nature will hasten not halt the destruction by further exposing ecosystems to profit-driven markets, the root cause of the problem.
Here are four key points and counterpoints from their debate on ‘The Price of Nature’.