The Economy is a subsidiary of the Environment, and NOT the other way around.
The best way of saving any species is to save it where it normally lives, namely in its natural habitat. This is because you save all the things that live with it, and all the things that are interdependent with it, including its food chain.
That is why it is so important to save the few wild places left on this tiny planet called earth.
So news of a way of saving the Guyanese tropical rainforest comes this week and is the first hopeful example of Global Enviromental Economics.
You can also hear about this in the interview with Hylton Murray-Philipson on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme (at about 11.5 minutes into the clip).
Here is a transcript...
BBC's Greg Wood: Canopy Capital has bought 371000 hectares (that is about the size of the island of Majorca). Now, this is about recognizing that Rainforest doesn't just store carbon, which is tradeable, but that they can also provide other services, if you like. For example, they are a catalyst for rainfall in other areas of the world - a commodity which potentially has value for farmers cultivating crops. Canopy Capital claims the deal puts a financial value on rainforest for the first time, and its director, Hylton Murray-Phillipson is here. Good morning. How do you put a value, a tradeable value on the rainforest and those benefits that you outline?
Hylton Murray-Phillipson: That is extremely difficult to do. I could say, invite me back in 12 months time and I will tell you. What I am absolutely convinced of is that the world cannot go along the model that we established since the 19th Century, treating the environment as an externality to economic growth. That was fine when the population was 1.5 billion in 1900, now we are 6.5 billion heading towards 9 billion in the middle of this century. Every single thing in this planet depends on those ecosystem services. The Economy is a subsidiary of the Environment, and NOT the other way around. Whether you want soya in Brazil, rainfall in Lima, or whether you even want crops in the American Midwest, you have to place a value on the rainfall generation of the forest.
I would like to IMMEDIATELY correct the misimpression created by your introduction that we have bought land in Guyana. We have definitively NOT done that. What we have entered into is a partnership to bring value to the ecosystem services of that forest. The forest remains the property of the people of Guyana and specifically the Irokwama reserve.
Greg Wood: But you still expect to make a return, a profit, out of it, and to many people, while your aims will be laudable, perhaps not the right way to go about preserving the environment and the benefits that you set out.
HMP: Well I think that would be a great pity. I think that the only way we are going to turn around the trend of destruction of tropical rainforest is to harness the power of money and markets in conservation. We HAVE to engage the profit motive. It is very important, I would like to make clear, that we DO manage to turn these assets into a profitable enterprise; that 80% of the upside benefit will go to the local communities and local stakeholders.