Green Pulse Podcast: How to truly value nature

This picture taken shows a farmer showing damaged fruits at a palm oil farm in Ijok, in Malaysia's Selangor state. PHOTO: AFP

Synopsis: Every first and third Monday of the month, The Straits Times analyses the beat of the changing environment, from biodiversity conservation to climate change.

If you look at a stretch of rainforest, how do you measure its true value? Is it for the timber in the trees, the medicines in the roots and bark, the water stored in its soils or for its ability to absorb carbon dioxide? A local villager might value it more for its cultural or spiritual worth or for the animals that provide food. A palm oil plantation developer might value the land the forest stands on.

Scientists tell us that nature provides benefits to people worth trillions of dollars a year, from the air we breathe to the soils we grow our food in. But it really depends on your perspective. And that’s the challenge in trying to put a value on nature. The more humanity destroys nature, the greater the threat to our existence. 

Recently, the United Nations’ science advisory panel for biodiversity, known as IPBES, looked at this complex issue and found there are dozens of ways to measure the value of nature. The report came up with guidelines for policymakers. It found that putting a narrow economic value on nature is one of the key reasons behind the loss and damage to the world’s ecosystems. 

In this episode, The Straits Times’ environment correspondent Audrey Tan and climate change editor David Fogarty discuss nature valuation with Dr Michael Christie, Professor of Environmental and Ecological Economics at Aberystwyth University in Wales, who is one of the co-chairs of the report. 

Highlights (click/tap above):

1:33 Examples of nature's value

4:46 Why is it important to consider different ways to value nature?

7:20 Main recommendations of the IPBES report

12:24 How to manage conflicts over developments such as building a wind farm that might harm local wildlife?

15:13 Best ways for city-dwellers to connect with nature

Produced by: Audrey Tan (audreyt@sph.com.sg), David Fogarty (dfogarty@sph.com.sg), Ernest Luis and Hadyu Rahim

Edited by: Hadyu Rahim

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