Monday, June 27, 2011

Nature's Services

Call it green coin. The movement towards accounting for natural capital in the equation of the economy in general and the accounting of its benefits as well as the risks of extraction and pollution has begun to take hold. Financial Times has laid out this argument in a recent article, which uses a National Ecosystem Assessment for the British economy.

Closer to home, Winrock International has developed a tool that measures the balance of ecosystem benefits of carbon sequestration for Shasta County in California. From an excerpt of their newsletter:

Winrock International recently developed a tool to assist landowners in Shasta County, Calif., who are exploring whether to pursue forest carbon sequestration projects involving reforestation on their land. The Winrock Land Use Planner (WinLUP), which can be
downloaded from Winrock’s website, calculates the potential net financial return from planting trees for a carbon project by taking into account the potential income through carbon credits and timber and the potential opportunity cost and planting and maintenance costs of the tree planting activities. In addition to potential economic benefits, land reforestation results in multiple environmental benefits such as land enrichment, erosion reduction and the enhancement of biodiversity.

WinLUP was developed as part of the
West Coast Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership (WESTCARB), Phase II, implemented by Winrock International and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. WESTCARB, Phase II was a partnership that evaluated carbon capture, storage and sequestration options to determine the most suitable technologies, regulations and infrastructure needs for sequestration as a climate change mitigation strategy.

This brings environmental planning, urban planning and design, economics and development into closer synchronization and starts to account for the true costs and balances of the "whole systems" view of planning. No longer do structures, roads and infrastructure stand apart from the ecosystem and the site's terrain and energy exposure. No longer is it about generating metal coin for a few large pockets, ripped from individuals and the public sphere.

Shepherding natural resources to work in natural processes more effectively will allow human habitation to have a regenerative effect on the globe rather than a destructive one. If we assist Nature's Services rather than consume and pollute them, there will be resources left for the next planetary generation and a vibrant, living future.

We've got our work cut out for us.