Monday, November 22, 2010

We must take nature's economic value into account

Posted By on Mon, Nov 22, 2010 at 2:31 PM

While we, in North Carolina, are allowing power companies to cut down and burn our trees like cavemen, other states and countries are realizing nature's economic value and taking those figures into account when making decisions about energy, conservation and development.

From The Times Herald, in Montgomery County, Pa.:

Supporters of such preservation efforts often point to studies done around the nation that show that the costs that accompany developed land — schools, fire, water, sewer and police services — vastly outweigh the tax revenue that land generates.

Now they can point to a study — written by the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia, Econsult Corp. and Keystone Conservation Trust — that looks into their own backyard and clearly lays out what you get out of preserving open space there.

“Put simply, when we preserve open space, we protect our pocketbooks,” said Delaware County Councilman Andy Lewis, who is also a member of the DVRPC board.

“Now we have proof that by investing in preserving this land, we are also investing in our local economy, supporting jobs and generating revenue,” said Chester County Commissioner Carol Aichele, who is also a DVRPC board member.

Read the entire article, by Evan Brandt, here.

Even Britain's Prince Charles is urging world leaders to investigate nature's value. Check out a snippet of an article he wrote, entitled, "Value of natural capital: Priceless."

In our human-centred world, with its emphasis on economics, and following decades of apparently unending material "progress", it has become all too easy for us to believe that we can continue to take what we wish from natural systems on the assumption they will indefinitely replenish themselves. As we are discovering, in the real world it doesn't quite work like that.

A famous study, by Robert Costanza and others, published in 1997, estimated the value of nature to the human economy by working out roughly what it would cost us to replace all the things that ecosystems provide to us. Their figure was about $33 trillion a year - or about double the then global GDP.

In other words, the part of the economy that we measure and seek to grow year on year is actually only about half the value of the part we don't measure. Perhaps this is why natural capital is being depleted so rapidly - because we have yet to adequately express in bald economic terms the value of nature.

Read the entire article here.

He's right: The natural world is priceless, which is exactly why we should coddle it, not destroy it. Future generations will thank us.

The trailer for Prince Charles' documentary Harmony:

Rhiannon "Rhi" Bowman is an independent journalist who contributes snarky commentary on Creative Loafing's CLog blog four days a week in addition to writing for several other local media organizations. To learn more, click the links or follow Rhi on Twitter.

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