'What Has Nature Ever Done For Us?' by Tony Juniper
Money really does grow on trees - that's the message from our former executive director Tony Juniper's new book showing how nature and global GDP are inextricably linked.
The cost of messing with nature
When Indian farmers used an anti-inflammatory drug to treat their cattle, no one expected a sharp increase in rabies infections, lost livelihoods and spiritual upheaval with costs running into billions of dollars. Why?
The drugs were toxic to vultures and some 40 million of these birds perished. So they didn’t pick the cattle carcasses clean. That meant thousands of India’s poorest people who relied on skin and bones for their income lost out. And many of the Indian Parsee sect were no longer able to pursue their religious practice of sky burial whereby the birds disposed of bodies.
There were winners though, mainly the feral dog population – which leaped by 7 million. More dogs meant more dog bites, and as a result an estimated extra 48,000 people died from rabies. The estimated cost to the Indian economy from the loss of the vultures over 14 years was put at $34 billion. The cost to Novartis, whose new drug that started it all? Nil.
What has Nature Ever Done for Us? is packed with examples like this, that demonstrate how natural systems - and messing with them - can be measured in hard cash.
Seeing natural systems differently
The vultures demonstrate just one among thousands of services that are (or were) provided for free by nature, and which are being removed to our cost.
But What has Nature Ever Done for Us? is also packed with inspiring examples where nature is saving national economies vast sums - like coral reefs protecting coasts from storms, and rainforests absorbing billions of tonnes of carbon emissions.
British bees are an example closer to home. Pesticide use, habitat loss, and pollution are wiping out bee colonies. We rely on bee pollination for most of our crops. Without bees, our food and economy is in serious jeopardy. Find out more about The Bee Cause.
Case study: Working oysters
We’ve got an exclusive extract from Juniper’s book, which shows the potential of oyster beds, to benefit both economy and environment.
Oyster reefs were once used extensively to provide food, and have the added benefits of naturally improving water quality and providing an important nursery for commercially-valuable fish.
Hear Tony talk about his book
You do the maths
The statistics speak for themselves. Tony's number-crunching highlights the cash value of biodiversity - whether it's a cost or saving to global GDP:
- US $274 billion
Contribution to global GDP from fishing, fish processing and sales.
- US $7 billion
Savings made by New York City through investing in nature for its water.
- US $3.7 trillion
Estimated value of carbon capture services provided by forests.
- US $1500
Annual value per hectare of pest control by birds in a timber-producing forest.
- US $81 billion
Value of damage caused by hurricane Katrina in September 2005.
- Euros 70 billion
Conservative estimate of annual cost of nitrogen pollution in Europe.
Nature does far more than most of us realise. Yet we take most of Nature's services for granted, regarding them as free and limitless ... until they suddenly switch off. Tony Juniper's message is simple: no nature, no economy. Read his book, and you might just change the way you think about the world around you.
About the Author
Tony Juniper is Britain’s best known environmental campaigner, and a former director of Friends of the Earth. He is the author of several books including Saving Planet Earth, which accompanied the BBC TV series, and Spix’s Macaw.
Buy the book
Get free P&P with code BOOKCLUB when you buy What has Nature Ever Done for Us? from Friends of the Earth Shop.
Friends of the Earth Book Club
Tony Juniper will be popping in to tell us more about his book on 23 January 2013 - watch this space for an update after that.
Join the discussion
Will 'natural capital' continue to provide for us, as the human population edges towards the 9 billion projected by 2050? Juniper is optimistic we can live in harmony with the Earth, if we take a very different approach.
And there's signs of business starting to take heed. Jose Lopez, Executive Vice President of Nestle, says, What has Nature Ever Done for Us? provides the stories and the numbers to convince others that investing in nature's balance sheet is good for the corporate balance sheet".
HRH The Prince of Wales, in his Foreword, is pleased to see this shift is already underway - but it needs to go much further and faster.
What do you think?