Nature provides a myriad of services that humans are dependent upon for life. For example, wetlands purify water and streams, forests prevent and/or reduce floods by absorbing water, plants absorb CO2 which reduces harmful emissions and produce oxygen to breathe, worms transform waste into soil, pollinators provide us with food to eat, and natural sources provide 9 of the 10 top medicines in the world, as well as increase property and aesthetic value of an area.
Unfortunately, 1/2 of the world’s wetlands, 1/3 of the Mangrove forests and 1/5 of the coral reefs have been destroyed. Furthermore, three species on the planet become extinct every hour and 35 million acres of native forest are destroyed annually. This is often because we value the products provided by nature, but we fail to assign value to the services provided. In order to rectify this issue, the services of nature must be considered and accounted for. The economic value of such services then needs to calculated and ultimately a plan incorporates the worth and protects those services must be created and implemented.
Some efforts have already been made to assign value. For example – the Amazon rainforests which have already been identified as gems of biodiversity also provide the water vapor that is turned into rain by the Northeast trade winds. The vapor is then turned into rain which the “agricultural economy” in Latin America is dependent upon. This is valued at $240 billion dollars – a figure that is overlooked as deforestation continues. Furthermore, land-use changes impact the poorest members of the world more significantly because they depend directly on the land for survival. Unfortunately for them [and arguably all of us], when the costs of environmental change are determined they are given value based on the contribution to the GDP which has been identified as an ineffective means for calculating the actual economic welfare of a nation. In this case, the GDP fails to take into consideration the support system provided for free by ecological systems. This issue is exacerbated by land that is lost to development [which is often too costly for the poor to enjoy].