Putting a price on nature seems like a simple idea: If nature had a price, wouldn’t corporations and governments be less likely to destroy it? Wouldn’t putting a price on nature overturn what economist Pavan Sukhdev calls “the economic invisibility of nature”?
An obvious response to the idea of putting a price on nature, is that if nature has a price, it’s only a matter of time before a company decides it’s worth paying that price in order to destroy it.
It all sounds rather like another simple idea – putting a price on the carbon stored in forests will make forests worth more standing than logged. REDD was going to be a quick and cheap way of saving the rainforests and stopping climate change.
A new documentary, “Banking Nature”, investigates the commodification of nature. The documentary will be broadcast on Arte on 3 February 2015.
Here’s a trailer:
Here are a few quotations:
- “Financialisation equals the rape of the earth.”
Vandana Shiva, environmental activist.
- “We use nature because she’s valuable, but we lose nature because she’s free.”
Pavan Sukhdev, CEO of GIST Advisory (former Managing Director at Deutsche Bank).
- “A licence to kill nature.”
Pablo Solon, Executive Director of Focus on the Global South (former Ambassador of Bolivia to the United Nations).
- “If we invest money in protecting nature, we’ll earn very, very high financial returns.”
Mark Tercek, CEO of The Nature Conservancy (former investment banker at Goldman Sachs).
And here’s how the directors, Denis Delestrac and Sandrine Feydel, describe the documentary:
We investigate the commercialization of the natural world. Protecting our planet has become big business with companies like Merrill Lynch and JP Morgan Chase promoting new environmental markets. This involves species banking, where investors buy up vast swathes of land, full of endangered species, to enable them to sell ‘nature credits’. Companies whose actions destroy the environment are now obliged to buy these credits and new financial centres have sprung up, specializing in this trade.
In countries like America, the system works very well. Many respected economists, like Pavan Sukhev, believe that the best way to protect nature is to put a price on it. But others fear that this market in nature could lead to companies having a financial interest in a species’ extinction. There are also concerns that – like the dotcom bubble of the 1990s or the subprime mortgage crisis of 2008 – the market in nature credits is bound to crash.
And there are wider issues at stake. What guarantees do we have that our natural inheritance will be protected? And should our ecological heritage be for sale?