I recently attended the Aye Write book festival in Glasgow. One of the book talks I went to was by Tony Juniper who wrote the book “What has nature ever done for us?” . He explained how natural systems sustain our welfare. Looking after the environment, whether it’s a local forest, rare frogs or a protected wetland, etc is often seen as an expensive luxury, that damages economies, costing jobs and a loss of business, etc. Tony explained why damaging the environment/nature can hurt us financially. If governments and big corporations understand that looking after nature can help enrich them, then maybe there’s a better chance that they will help protect the environment.
A revealing example he gave concerned the economic value of India’s vultures – or more accurately their former value:
Across the subcontinent during the 1990s, India’s three vulture species suffered a catastrophic decline. It was caused by an anti-inflammatory drug used to treat farm animals. Residues in the bodies of dead cattle and buffalo proved toxic to such birds and their numbers plummeted from about 40 million to a few tens of thousands.
Each year the vultures were eating about 12 million tonnes of rotting flesh. With the vultures’ gone this became food for wild dogs. Their population rocketed and more dog bites and human rabies infections followed. This in turn led to an estimated 50,000 or so more deaths than would otherwise have been the case. The cost of this and other consequences on India’s economy was (over a decade or so) put at an eye-watering US$34 billion.
Taken together, the loss of natural services is believed to be costing the global economy more than 6 trillion dollars per year, or equivalent to around 11 per cent of world GDP. By contrast, the estimated cost of meeting global targets to avert the impending mass extinction of species is put at about US$76 billion, or about 0.12 per cent of annual GDP.
How Money Really Does Grow On Trees
It was an eye opening talk and Tony came across as very passionate about spreading his message. I recommend you check his book out, it will definitely make you look at the planet, nature and the economy in a different light.