Can 'Ecological Economics' Put an Accurate Price on Ecosystems?

Canada's wide open spaces and clean cities are misleading: its arable land could fit in Montana and most of its dirty manufacturing has moved to Asia. A more accurate economic model is required to account for Canadians' ecological footprint.

"[A] group of dissenters has stood back from balance-sheet fundamentalism and adopted a new approach. They call it "ecological economics," a phrase acknowledging that in terms of social, economic, biological, and environmental matters, we really are all in this together.

Mexico has moved past the notion that ecological and social values are necessarily antagonistic to economic ones, and realized instead the urgent need to get the former onto the books of the latter. In 2003, the government recognized that the Sierra Gorda is one of the irreplaceable 'water factories' that supply the country's growing cities and 109 million people. With this in mind, it began distributing $500,000 a year to farmers in upland regions, where rain is captured in streams.

One way to answer the hard question of how much a particular patch of ecosystem is worth is to go out and try to build one just like it. That's Wildlands Inc.'s game. The California-based company sells eco-credits based on a portfolio of ecosystems its 100 employees have banked from Georgia to Washington State. It earns profits on 30,000 acres occupied by such endangered species as Swainson's hawks, kit foxes, and giant garter snakes.

Robert Costanza would say that all these ideas...are trying to do the same thing: close the accounting gap between the biophysical world and the economic one."

Full Story: The Business of Saving the Earth

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