What is the true cost of that product?
Environment; The Greener Surfer Updates
The Greener Surfer digs a bit deeper into the truth behind the real cost of depleting Mother Nature
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 29 October, 2012 : - - Surfer, writer, agriculturalist and environmentalist Jamii Hamlin shares his thoughts. We always talk about how wealthy so and so is, how much money a company made or how cool their new product is, but how often do you hear about the value of Mother Nature? I find it disturbingly sad that the most valuable asset that we have is always expected to continually provide us with a seemingly abundant supply without much thought or concern to the real cost of depletion.
Currently I’m midway through reading “The meaning of the 21st century” by James Martin who is a very smart South African. Formally a rocket scientist before joining IBM, he formed Headstrong a global management consultancy and then founded the James Martin 21st Century School at Oxford University. His book is regarded as ‘A blueprint for ensuring our future’ and he suggests that the world as a whole is critically nearing a turning point.
And will determine if our future will either progress into clean and sustainable living or degenerate into a downward doomsday spiral something like a Mad Max cross Water-World movie gone horribly wrong without any hero to save us.
Whilst the above summary seems outlandish in prediction, I hope the Mayan Calendar that stops in a month’s time will see the beginning of a new era for man’s evolution rather than the start of it’s demise.
Take a moment to review the world around us. How in recent years leading up to 2012 there has been enormous upheaval in the world’s status quo. The banking implosion that kicked off the current recession. Rampant HIV deemed a result of poor hygiene and nutrition. Avian Flu virus scares threatening to cause world-wide disease. Revolts in Lybia and Egypt. And ultimately the dependence upon an oil based economy that is holding the world to ransom.
What James Martin does identify is that the entire world future is heavily dependent upon us prioritizing the planet environmental welfare and by advancing upon and incorporating the use of ‘clean & low impact’ technologies that man will thrive again so to speak, like Adam & Eve did in the Garden of Eden.
Red elephants © Stirton/Greener Surfer
For me Martins answered the most critical and burning question that each one of us needs to digest, “How valuable is Mother Nature?” He explains this in detail by comparing the entire world economy as Human Capital in relation to the abundance of nature’s (the world’s trust fund) resources identified as Natural Capital.
Rather that incorrectly paraphrasing Martin, on pg 40 he writes, “It is difficult to put a precise value on the trust fund (natures). In the 1990s, a group of economist estimated that 17 of the services we receive from nature have an average value of $36 trillion per year with a high estimate of $ 58 trillion (1998 dollars). The global economy was then estimated to be $35 trillion. Although there could be many squabbles about how to do such a calculation, it’s commonly accepted that the trust fund (natures) is larger than the global economy.”
So to understand Natural Capital, this refers to water, air, oil, minerals, natural gases, coal and living systems such as forests, grasslands, wetlands, estuaries and oceans. He believes the obstacle to mans prosperity is not the lack of human capital but rather the lack of natural capital, as the human economy is entirely dependent upon depleting the supply of natural capital. He further identifies the two types of natural capital as commodities and services.
Commodities are the air, water, oil, minerals, wood, fish and so on. Services are the maintenance of breathable atmosphere and the maintenance of a healthy environment which allow eco-systems to be sustained by all the elements of rain, sun & winds, with seasonal changes and all the microscopic creatures that help make the soil fertile, allowing seeds to travel by wind, water, carried by insects or animals that are later pollinated again by insects etc that continue to sustain the bio diversity lifecycles.
What is the most startling realization is what Martin deems as False Accounting. As many countries report on growing GDP’s they fail to include the cost or decline to Natural Capital. As example fishing trawlers or oil companies will sell their goods based upon the operational cost of sourcing, extracting and processing these commodities, but none of these companies have paid for the natural resources.
On page 44 Martin writes, “When humanity lays waste to a forest, we count the value of the timber as an increase in wealth but don’t account for the damage done to natures ability to absorb carbon dioxide. Corporate balance sheets put a zero value upon Earth resources.”
Whilst we can survive without natural commodities by finding replacements or alternatives to depleted oil reserves or food types like fish etc, but without the natural services we have no hope or chance to survive.
So as 2012 rolls closer to the fabled Mayan end, we now need to take stock of our precious natural resources to preserve them with a greater understanding and appreciation of their rightful value and to focus on ways to minimize our demand upon our natural capital. The cost of your new ‘goodies’ in this day and age are likely to have cost the environment a whole lot more than you think.
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Source: The Greener Surfer
Author: The Editors
Tags: Jamii Hamlin, Products, Consumer