THE VALUE OF NATURE

Al Jazeera, in its tv show “Pricing the Planet” says: We use nature because it is valuable, we lose nature because it is free. In the economic calculations, Nature is made invisible. Will Nature as we know it, therefore, cease to exist? Extinction is forever.

This sounds sinister. Some scientists predict that by 2050 there will not be any original tropical rainforest left. For my part I am sure there will be some; but in mountainous areas unsuitable for any other use. Other scientists (like Chinese environmentalist Zhiyun Ouyang) claim that the natural forest needs to have a $-value assigned to it, based on an assessment of Gross Ecosystem Product GEP. Unlike GDP it includes the services – such as water retention, flood mitigation and top soil protection – provided by a preserved ecosystem. Using that “instrument” Mr Ouyang hopes to have 35% of China’s land area set aside as “Nature”, based on GEP considerations. (source Eco-Business newsletter 29 March 2017.)

We have something important here that needs follow-up.

In Indonesia oil palm has been the business to invest in during the last 15 years or so, within the agriculture sector. The market demand and the prices in combination with the palm’s extraordinary oil yields puts this crop in a class of its own when it comes to profitability. In the conventional Excel sheets “Nature” becomes a meaningless option when calculating the Rate of Return on different land uses. What irritates here is that we all, all of us, know that the reason why oil palm ends up on top in this competition is not only its favourable parameters, but also our inability to come up with sufficiently solid parameters for “Nature” as a deserving alternative, with derived values, or numbers more precisely, that will stand a chance in the decision-making process among investors and land administrators.

As I said, we have to get back to this. In any case Nature comes out on top when we talk about adventure and emotional and esthetic experience, only that this needs to be manifested in numbers, otherwise economists and investors will not pay attention.  www.naturetrailsindonesia.com

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