Wednesday, August 20, 2008

This was a pretty interesting read:

Stanford Biologist Sees Money in Preservation of the Environment

This is a new way of saving nature. Until now, the conservation movement has said people should care about nature for nature's sake - with charity as the driving economic force to preserve land. And that, [Stanford biologist Gretchen] Daily said, has failed. She sees a renaissance in the conservation movement hinging on investment.

[...]No one gets paid for water purification or climate stabilization or protecting biodiversity on a large scale. That's what Daily envisions.

She advocates at the state and even country government level, using software developed that can, for example, "estimate the worth of a forest full of pollinating insects vital to nearby crop production."

Where does it make sense to convert forests to agricultural production? Where should they be left alone?

Financially strapped countries could find the tool crucial, advocates say. A poor nation might be tempted to let a rich corporation develop land because it doesn't know the dollar value of the natural resources that will be destroyed.

"If you put yourself in the shoes of a poor government, it's hard to turn down the cash deal," said Mark Tercek, a former official at investment giant Goldman Sachs who recently left to head the Nature Conservancy. "It's hard to put a value on these services. That's what (Daily) is trying to map out."


"We're in the biggest mass extinction since the dinosaurs," [Daily] said in her Stanford office, which is covered with photos of her husband and two children. "People estimate we'll lose half of the Earth's life forms in our lifetime."

I don't know who "people" are, but that postulation is scary.

On a related note, this reminds me of the fundamental difference of policy that has guided two different nonprofits I've worked for, and how I believe it has been the key to their successes. Both social justice nonprofits, this difference stems from a crucial bit in their mission statements: investing in their grantees and clients, versus a "charity" approach, which I have seen firsthand foster community and allow dignity and personal power in one's life to drive lasting change.

Oh lord, help me remember this in my own life's little interactions!

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