Natural capital is everywhere. It’s the fresh air we breathe, the clean water we drink, the beautiful coral reefs we visit that protect coastal communities from storms and support fisheries around the world.
Some of these benefits that our lands, waters and biodiversity provide are not fully appreciated, often because they don’t have a price tag like products in a store. Yet without them our well-being, even our survival, would be threatened.
Through the Natural Capital Project—where WWF is a founding partner—we seek to improve the state of human wellbeing by motivating greater and more cost-effective investments in natural capital. Valuing nature helps ensure that the benefits people enjoy today will be available to support their health and livelihoods well into the future.
Today, World Wildlife Fund released the 2014 Living Planet Report. The report is always a must read update on the state of the planet, but this edition is especially important for anyone who cares about biodiversity. The headline finding is that vertebrate populations around the world have declined by an average of 52% between 1970 and 2010.
The situation is even worse if we look at the tropics, with an 83% species decline in Latin America. These are sobering statistics for me, and I’m sure for you as well.
August 20, 2013 marks Earth Overshoot Day—the estimated date when we've used up the Earth's annual supply of renewable natural resources and carbon absorbing capacity. After that, we're using more than the planet can sustain. It's a one-day reminder of a year-round problem—we are living too large on a finite planet.
You probably have a general sense of why. Our human population continues to grow. We are consuming more and more resources. And we still have only one planet. To appreciate just how large we are living in relation to our finite planet, let's look more closely at some numbers.
Conservation is in the midst of a fundamental shift that I call "The Pivot." Conservation is pivoting from being backward-looking to forward-looking. This reorientation promises to expand what conservation can achieve by setting the stage for Conservation 3.0.
Despite frequent reference to the interests of future generations, conservation has mostly been a backward-looking endeavor. Hearkening back to "good old days" before extensive human impact on nature, conservation resisted change. It used verbs like "protect," "preserve," and "restore." It benchmarked success in terms of similarity to historical baselines. In short, conservation sought to make the future look as much as possible like the past.
The Arctic is an extraordinary and iconic place where wildlife is still abundant and ecosystems are still intact. Caribou herds migrate across vast tundra. Millions of seabirds nest on remote rocky islands. Walrus, narwhal and other marine mammals swim the seas. And polar bears hunt seals on the ice.