It’s not money that matters

During the next two weeks, the eyes of all conservationsts lie on Nagoya, Japan: UN delegates from 190 countries will discuss the preservation of the world’s biodiversity at The Convention on Biological Diversity.

Many hopes and fears are linked to this conference: After the failure of the conference of Copenhagen last year, this is another chance to find agreements on how to prevent the earth from irrepealable damages caused by human beings.

To stress the importance of this conference, a team of UN-sponsored economists calculated, how much the loss of biodiversity and economic systems costs us every year: Two to five trillion Dollars.

Wait a minute – economists calculated this? Now, I will be honest with you, I have never been a genius when it came to economics, and if I would try to check this figure and calculate this by myself, the fact that I would possibly come to a different result would rather be a proof of my limited economical skills than a proof for them having made a mistake.

But this is not the point that I am up to. In an economist’s world, such a calculation may make sense and be a logical figure to deal with. But if we leave our desk and step into the real world – what does this figure tell us? And what should it tell us?

The danger I see in publishing such a number, is that the problem of destroying nature is reduced to an economic one, one that you could pay for. But when a species becomes extinct, no money in the world will make it live again. Never.

By saying that the loss of biodiversity and economic systems costs something, the first solution to this problem seems to be – money. Spend two to five trillion Dollars a year, and the world’s problems will magically disappear? Rather not.

And even if this huge amount of money would all be spend on initiatives and programmes to restore destroyed parts of our nature – e.g. planting trees, breeding endangerous species, cleaning the water of polluted lakes and rivers – this could not stop animals and plants dying out and crucial parts of nature being destroyed.

The loss of biodiversity is happening right now – in this moment, in this second. No one will ever know, how many species got extinct before we discovered them, and no one will ever be able to tell, what consequences the extinction of one certain species will bring with it. You can not calculate this as a risk which might be covered by insurance agencies.

So throwing numbers in a discussion like this doesn’t help you to understand the problem, instead it might lead to a dangerous belief that with enough money, all problems could be solved. Some people seem to disawove this until they have to realise you can buy a lot of things with money, but you can not eat it.

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