The New Economy of Nature: The Quest to Make Conservation Profitable

The New Economy of Nature: The Quest to Make Conservation Profitable
Author: 
Gretchen C. Daily and Katherine Ellison
Publisher: 
Island Press
Publication Date: 
2002
ISBN: 
1-559-63945-8

paper, 260 p., $25

In a forest is timber the commodity or is the commodity the forest ecosystem? This ecosystem supports life in the soil, sustains above-ground flora and fauna, prevents erosion, and purifies water and the atmosphere.

Ecologist Gretchen Daily and conservation writer Katherine Ellison have created an interesting account on the environment, which has long been considered a "free commodity," and the economic ways in which this is finally changing. Through examples of local and governmental agencies making financially and conservationally sound decisions to solve problems, the book provides an optimistic look at the potential to protect our biosphere in the future.

The case of the New York City water supply is a compelling story. About 10 million New York city residents depend on the water flow from three upstate reservoirs — the largest surface water supply in the U.S. that is not mechanically filtered. When this water supply was endangered, the city was faced with a potential cost of $6 billion to $8 billion for an artificial water filtration system. The alternative chosen was to spend $1.5 billion to protect the upstate watershed and allow nature to purify the water. Despite very complicated negotiations with land owners and governmental agencies, it is so far a successful case of economic value attached to a specific natural ecosystem. This book provides other accounts of conservation making fiscal sense where the environment is treated as a valuable asset.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in current events, the environment, economics or conservation. It is very readable, avoids scientific jargon and yet explains the scientific concepts behind conservation ideas.

— Leora Ornstein Siegel

Volume: 
5
Number: 
5