A report funded by the European Commission tried to generate a preliminary estimate of costs to the global economy from environmental damage. Destruction of ecosystems reduces free services provided by them, such as nutrient cycling, soil viability, freshwater filtering, erosion control, biodiversity, pollination, and so forth. They came up with the figure of almost $14 trillion Euros per year lost due to environmental damage from human activities. That figure is a projection for the year 2050 and is equivalent to seven percent of the world’s GDP for that year, based on estimates.
Human economic prospects are not separate from the environment. Damage to the environment also harms the human community, because our survival depends upon having healthy ecosystems.
One non-European example is overfishing in Mexico that threatened a fishing community and their local marine life. They simply fished to the point of nearly exhausting the natural resource. Scientists helped them understand the ecosystem, and implement a ban which allowed the fish to rebound during a ten year period to over 400% of their population before the ban.
Another example of the value of biodiversity is that the mere presence of about 100-120 wolves in the Yellowstone area generates about $35 million dollars a year from tourism. Yet wolves had their endangered species protections removed and are scheduled to be hunted in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana.
In Australia the bordering oceans have been valued at $25 billion a year. Destruction of the Great Barrier Reef and other marine ecosystems would cause large declines in revenues from tourism and fishing. Protecting these natural resources will actually probably increase revenues because natural systems are being destroyed and becoming more scarce.
In Yellowstone climate change is already causing the loss of ponds and amphibians. If Yellowstone experiences a loss of animals such as bison, bears or wolves, tourism will likely decline, hurting the regional economy. Such a scenario, which is based in reality, is exactly the opposite of what some politicians say about jobs being lost because of environmental protection.
Of course, for some people the value of the natural world can’t be put into dollars because it is far more important to them than money. However, other people don’t relate to it in the same way, so using dollars as a measure is more accessible – both for common understanding and easier communication.
Image Credit: Staplegunther