We need to understand the value of nature if we want to protect it — and that should include paying for ecosystems to keep us alive, argues Ian Redmond, head of the non-profit streaming platform Conservation. Is. Echo Flux and co-founder of Balance the ground., a company that aims to build a sustainable, resilient, and equitable economy. He’s trying to reverse the pernicious equation where “if the minerals below the ground are worth more than the trees and animals above the ground, traditionally, the trees and animals have to go.”

He suggests that pricing nature’s benefits would help protect it. Wildlife tourism shows that people are willing to pay up to $1,500 to spend an hour in the company of an elephant in Rwanda, he explains—so tourists already know how valuable nature is. But what about the local people? Filmmakers should share profits from their wildlife films with those who protect or depend on ecosystems.

“The irony is that people who live in the developing world, where many of these documentaries are made, don’t get to see them because their national TV stations can’t afford to buy them,” he explains. . “We need people to care about wildlife in the countries where wildlife lives.”

And we should pay animals like elephants for their essential aquatic gardening. “Monkeys, elephants and birds are agents of seed dispersal in tropical forests,” he adds. “They swallow the seeds and deposit them in their droppings miles away.”

This has huge beneficial effects locally and globally, as trees do more than just store carbon. A study in the Congo Basin found that a forest where elephants still lived had 14 percent more wood than a forest where the elephants had died. This basin sets up the weather system that ultimately produces rainfall in Britain and Europe.

“Do you think any proportion of what you pay is yours?” [electricity] Planting trees to protect elephants and gorillas in the Congo Basin that fill hydro schemes in Scotland? they say. “Not a penny. There is no value to the ecosystem services that each of us benefit from.”

Ralph Chami, former assistant director of the International Monetary Fund, calculated that the value an elephant provides to the world during its lifetime is about $1.75 million per animal. “That’s about $30,000 a year, or $80 a day if the elephant is paid for the service it’s providing to the world,” he pointed out. “But, of course, no one is paying for it.”

So, it’s time to pay the bills. “I want every gorilla, every orangutan, and every animal to be valued for what they do for the ecosystem, and for us smart humans to create a system that allows that,” he says. “At last count, it was estimated at about $700 billion a year. That’s a lot of money. It’s not going to come out of government coffers, it’s not going to come out of philanthropy, but if we make it that way, it’s a global economy. can come out of.”

This article appears in the March/April 2024 issue. Wired UK Magazine.