Rainbow over rainforest

Many of us ecologists are very familiar with the concept of Ecosystem Services and Nature's Capital - it's an old idea. 

Ecosystem Services Communication

January 25, 2012

Rainbow over rainforest

Many of us ecologists are very familiar with the concept of Ecosystem Services and Nature's Capital - it's an old idea.

harvell2.jpgDrew Harvell, ACSF Associate Director - Environment

I find it interesting that the idea has such huge traction suddenly, especially with the NGOs and now government policy (NOAA is doing a lot now with Ecosystem Services).

Look at the huge impact of Pavan Sukhdev’s Ted Talk on Green Accounting. There is nothing new at all in the presentation, except the successful application of the idea, and a very nice economics framing of “The Economic Invisibility of Nature” and “Putting a price on the real value of nature” and a smart job of picking excellent examples.

TED Talks: Pavan Sukhdev:
Put a value on nature!

Pavan Sukhdev's TED presentation
Watch video of Deutsche Bank economist Pavan Sukhdev’s TED talk

“Every day, we use materials from the earth without thinking, for free. But what if we had to pay for their true value: would it make us more careful about what we use and what we waste? Think of Pavan Sukhdev as nature’s banker — assessing the value of the Earth’s assets. Eye-opening charts will make you think differently about the cost of air, water, trees …”

“A billion people depend on fish for their main source for animal protein. At the rate at which we are losing fish, it is a human problem of enormous dimensions, a health problem of a kind we haven’t seen before.”

A banker by training, Pavan Sukhdev runs the numbers on greening up — showing that green economies are an effective engine for creating jobs and creating wealth.

You might also read his interview at Yale e360:

Putting a Price on The Real Value of Nature

Indian banker Pavan Sukhdev has been grappling with the question of how to place a monetary value on nature. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, he discusses the ways natural ecosystems benefit people and why policymakers and businesses must rethink how they assess environmental costs and benefits.

How do you put a price on the value of nature? That’s the question Indian banker Pavan Sukhdev and his colleagues are seeking to answer in their international project on The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), which published its latest report last month. The challenge, as Sukhdev sees it, is how to address the “economic invisibility of nature,” which allows the economic value of ecosystems to be ignored by governments and businesses.

In an interview with Yale Environment 360 editor Roger Cohn, Sukhdev, who heads a green consulting firm in based in India, cited crucial benefits from nature that are often overlooked, including the capacity of wetlands for filtering water, the role of forests in preventing erosion and flooding, and the importance of bees in pollinating crops. “When did the bees last send you an invoice for pollination?” he asks.

Sukhdev contends that the current tough economic times globally might be the right moment to promote awareness of the real value of natural systems. “If we think differently,” he says, “if we value natural capital, if we see its productive potential and its employment potential, we might have solutions in our hands.”

Yale Environment 360: You’ve been focused on the importance of putting a monetary value on nature and on ecosystem services. Can you explain what you mean by that?

Pavan Sukhdev: Well, partly it’s the challenge of addressing what I call the economic invisibility of nature, because nature provides a hell of a lot to us — whether it’s clean air, fresh water, or nutrients and water cycling for agriculture, or whether it’s disease prevention or recreation. There’s a lot coming to us free… (read more)