Determining the monetary value of biodiversity and “ecosystem services” — the benefits that nature provides for people, from pollination to fisheries — is an emerging field of study, and an understandably difficult one.
Fortunately, with the global collaboration of hundreds of scientists and researchers (including several CI staff members), The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) study is taking major steps to assess the value of nature, and use this data to inform development decisions.
In his recent TED talk, economist, CI board member and TEEB study leader Pavan Sukhdev clearly illustrated this abstract concept with specific examples, such as this one from the Amazon rainforest.
“It’s a massive store of carbon, it’s an amazing store of biodiversity, but what people don’t really know is that it’s also a rain factory … This rainfall factory effectively feeds an agricultural economy of the order of $240 billion worth in Latin America … So how much do Uruguay, Paraguay, Argentina and indeed the state of Mato Grosso in Brazil pay for that vital input to that economy to the state of Amazonas which produces that rainfall? And the answer is zilch, exactly zero. That’s the economic invisibility of nature.”
Sukhdev compared the rate at which we are losing natural capital to the financial capital lost in the 2008 economic crisis. Learn more in the video below.
Molly Bergen is managing editor on CI’s communications team.