What Has Nature Ever Done For Us?


Author Tony Juniper

Review by Francesca Baker

The two big Es in our lives can be viewed as polarised entities: an interest in the economy and the environment are deemed to be irreconcilable, with progress in one likely to scupper the other. However, Juniper displays the value of nature in one of the few languages that people seem to understand – money. By calculating the economic value of ‘nature’s services’, he argues that there does not have to be a choice between economic development and a sustainable environment, and by starkly laying out facts and figures, does so in a way that is easily understood even by those blinded by material wealth.

Consider the facts, Juniper tells us. The work done by animals towards agriculture and growth, such as pollination, has been valued at $190 billion per year, and the pest control provided by insectivorous birds on a coffee plantation is the equivalent of $310 per hectare. Over half of the United States’ $640 billion pharmaceutical market is directly dependent upon the genetic diversity of the world’s species. Increasing levels of cycling in Copenhagen by 10% would save $12 million from the annual health bill. All in all, it has been estimated that the services provided by nature are delivering value double that of global GDP.

Nixon persuasively argues that all economic activity is in some way dependent on nature and the environment, be it via resources, natural processes or people. Without a world to exist in, there can be no prosperity for business, industries or societies. So why do we delude ourselves that sustainable business, industry and political structures are impossible? Juniper’s clever and powerful book makes it clear that such a view will ultimately limit progress in all spheres of life. Recognising the important role that the world has in our lives shouldn’t be so tough, and if representing the importance of nature in monetary terms is the only way that the message can be understood, Juniper has hit on a winning formula.