How Can We Put a Value on Ecosystem Services?

To save the natural world, we need to translate the value of things like pollination and coral reefs into dollars and cents.

Yesterday, the release of the U.K. National Ecosystem Assessment raised some eyebrows when it revealed that the nature "is worth billions" to the United Kingdom.

One of the biggest challenges in environmental economics has always been putting a value on nature, and on the services that natural systems provide. Basically, we already know the value of ecosystems' products—fish, corn, water, herbs, and so on—but economists have long struggled with the "services" that they provide. If you were to ask someone the value of bees pollinating plants or fresh water flowing to your faucet or coral cleansing a bay, they'd likely say it was priceless. But in order to survive in our market-driven world, putting a hard number on the value of these types of ecosytem services is essential, and this Assessment out of the U.K. is something of a watershed moment.

Here in the United States, four groups are partnering on a similar long-term initiative called the Natural Capital Project. The partners—Stanford University's Woods Institute for the Environment, University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment, The Nature Conservancy, and World Wildlife Fund—aren't taking as broad an approach as the U.K. study, but are rather working on specific tools to "to integrate scientific and economic understanding of natural assets into real land-use and investment decisions."

As the Nature Conservancy puts it:

Human well-being depends on the services and assets that nature provides for free, everyday and everywhere. Humans depend on ecosystems such as forests and coral reefs for clean water, fertile soils, food, fuel, storm protection and flood control.


The group recently released this punchy video that gets at the essence of their work.


The partners are developing a collection of software-based tools, called InVEST (Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services and Tradeoffs), to help decision makers better quantify the values of natural capital.

The Natural Capital Project is about halfway into its ten year plan, it's released dozens of papers and, more importantly, the InVEST tools are already being tested in some demonstration projects. Putting a hard dollar sign on ecosystems like forests and coral reefs is an essential step in solving the massive, urgent environmental challenges of our time.

via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

If you are totally ready to move on from Donald Trump, you're not alone. According to a report last April from the Wason Center National Survey of 2020 Voters, "President Trump will be the least popular president to run for reelection in the history of polling."

Yes, you read that right, "history of polling."

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via Around the NFL / Twitter

After three years on the sidelines, Colin Kapernick will be working out for multiple NFL teams on Saturday, November 16 at the Atlanta Falcons facility.

The former 49er quarterback who inflamed the culture wars by peacefully protesting against social injustice during the national anthem made the announcement on Twitter Tuesday.

Kaepernick is scheduled for a 15-minute on-field workout and an interview that will be recorded and sent to all 32 teams. The Miami Dolphins, Dallas Cowboys, and Detroit Lions are expected to have representatives in attendance.

RELATED: Joe Namath Says Colin Kaepernick And Eric Reid Should Be Playing In The NFL

"We like our quarterback situation right now," Miami head coach, Brian Flores said. "We're going to do our due diligence."

NFL Insider Steve Wyche believes that the workout is the NFL's response to multiple teams inquiring about the 32-year-old quarterback. A league-wide workout would help to mitigate any potential political backlash that any one team may face for making an overture to the controversial figure.

Kapernick is an unrestricted free agent (UFA) so any team could have reached out to him. But it's believed that the interested teams are considering him for next season.

RELATED: Video of an Oakland train employee saving a man's life is so insane, it looks like CGI

Earlier this year, Kaepernick and Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid reached a financial settlement with the league in a joint collusion complaint. The players alleged that the league conspired to keep them out after they began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016.

Before the 2019 season, Kaepernick posted a video of himself working out on twitter to show he was in great physical condition and ready to play.

Kaepnick took the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2012 and the NFC Championship game in 2013.

He has the 23rd-highest career passer rating in NFL history, the second-best interception rate, and the ninth-most rushing yards per game of any quarterback ever. In 2016, his career to a sharp dive and he won only of 11 games as a starter.


In the category of "claims to fame nobody wants," the United States can now add "exporter of white supremacist ideology" to its repertoire. Super.

Russell Travers, acting director of the National Counterterrorism Center, made this claim in a briefing at The Washington Institute in Washington, D.C. "For almost two decades, the United States has pointed abroad at countries who are exporters of extreme Islamist ideology," Travers said. "We are now being seen as the exporter of white supremacist ideology. That's a reality with which we are going to have to deal."

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Between Alexa, Siri, and Google, artificial intelligence is quickly changing us and the way we live. We no longer have to get up to turn on the lights or set the thermostat, we can find the fastest route to work with a click, and, most importantly, tag our friends in pictures. But interacting with the world isn't the only thing AI is making easier – now we can use it save the world, too.

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