The Mind Bending Value of Nature

Seven Hills Park, Photo Credit: Gregory Heller

The term biophilia, coined by Edward O. Wilson, describes what he thinks is our innate connection to the natural world. Wilson and other like-minded scholars have taken this concept further to suggest that, in fact, humans cannot thrive in the absence of this connection to nature (mentally, physically or spiritually).  Given this vital connection, it’s no surprise that social scientists and economist, in particular, have been developing credible techniques for estimating the monetary value of the benefits humans receive from nature or other compelling metrics. One such recent article in The Washington Post puts the value of planting 11 trees on a city block as being comparable, in improved cardio-metabolic health, to raising a person’s income by $20,000 or making them 1.4 years younger.

A 2012 article by David Suzuki focused on the value of a single tree and the services it provides in air filtration, cooling and water absorption (a single, mature tree has the cooling power of 10 air conditioners.) On a global scale, another study suggests that all “ecosystem services” combined, could be worth over $100 trillion per year. So it follows that when we lose the services that nature has long provided (loss due to forest fires, deforestation, development or polluting activity) the economic loss is equally staggering.

So, it begs the question, if the connection between humans and nature is so vital to our well-being and so economically valuable, why aren’t we protecting our natural resources as if our lives depended on it? How is it that the budgets for conservation and protection of parks (of all sizes), forests, agricultural land and general natural resource isn’t at the scale of the true value of those resources or the replacement cost of those resources?

What would the Central Puget Sound area look like if we used the lens of our natural resources as THE most important resource to manage sustainably for the health and wellbeing benefits to the population of Puget Sound? And what if we could do this by ensuring that we are maximizing those investments to the benefit of not only human health but also economic development, social equity, climate change and the regions biodiversity. This is the work of the ROSS and these are the questions driving the effort toward properly valuing and prioritizing the investments we make in the natural resource base of Puget Sound—the lifeline for all its inhabitants.

by Tracy Stanton, Chair, Ecosystem Services Committee, ROSS

Filed under: 
Regional Challenges: 
Privacy statement | Credits and Attribution | Unsubscribe from email
© 2017 ROSS. All Rights Reserved.
Site development: Barn Door Productions