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Nature Bills Last: Forest Destruction Costs Exceed Bank Bailout Costs

While fanciful fiscal creatures like derivatives and CDO’s devoured bricks-and-mortar banks, very tangible bulldozers and chain saws devoured immense expanses of real forests on our real and finite biosphere. Who cares? Well, anyone who thinks bailing out Wall Street is expensive. Compared to the real costs of forest destruction, the $700 billion Paulson/Obama bail-out bill Bush signed over to Wall Street is a bargain.

Who cares, anyway? What did the forests ever do for us, anyway?

Provide clean water: that stuff we’re running out of so fast that it’s literally killing some of us.

Oh – and absorb carbon dioxide: that stuff we’re producing so fast it’s literally killing some more of us.

How much of the planet’s forest wealth do we clever humans destroy every year? And how does that cost compare to the recent Wall Street meltdown?

"So whereas Wall Street by various calculations has to date lost, within the financial sector, $1-$1.5 trillion, the reality is that at today’s rate we are losing natural capital at least between $2-$5 trillion every year."

Why are we cutting down our planet’s forests? We cut down some to ship the wood to consumers and paper mills in rich countries and China. We cut down other forests — like Brazil’s Amazon — to grow more beef for people in the US and other places where people already eat meat in such excess they sicken and die as a result. We cut down yet other forests — like the rainforests of Southeast Asia — so people in the US and Europe have more of the under-priced fuel that alows them to continue driving in such excess they sicken and die as a result.

And because we’re such clever animals, humans in the World Bank and the IMF subsidize the destruction of the developing world’s forests for the (very) temporary enrichment of the wealthiest people in the world.

Because the Washington Consensus the IMF and WB exist to enforce is, don’cha know, so good for life on this planet: if the lives in question are those of the upper 0.5% in the US and the other wealthy "enforcer" nations. And if we restrict "good" to mean "more money for a handful of years".

Who is pricing out the cost of forest destuction?

The folks working on The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (Teeb), a review initiated by Germany during their rotating EU presidency and funded by the European Commission. Yesterday at the World Conservation Congress, Teeb’s director described how long we’ve been racking up the bill for forest destruction

Speaking to BBC News on the fringes of the congress, study leader Pavan Sukhdev emphasised that the cost of natural decline dwarfs losses on the financial markets.

"It’s not only greater but it’s also continuous, it’s been happening every year, year after year," he told BBC News.

OK — so forest destuction costs more than the Wall Street meltdown. That’s still just leaf litter compared to vast canopy of the global economy, right?

Uh, not so much.

As the BBC report, the Teeb review found deforestation consumes more than one fifteenth of the world’s total economic output

The first phase concluded in May when the team released its finding that forest decline could be costing about 7% of global GDP.

Oh well — what’s one-fifteenth of the huge global economy anyway, right?

Well, compared to the costs of the groundwater wasted on speculators’ commodity bubbles, the topsoil devoured by speculators’ housing bubbles, and the global climate change that Big Carbon bribes global governments to continue, perhaps not so much.

Teeb will have more to tell us about the global bill for planetary eco-destuction.

The second phase will expand the scope to other natural systems.

Of course, unless the pols who pass for our "leaders" choose to do something about global ecological destruction, all the tree-free reports in the parsec won’t help our biosphere.

Or the half of the world’s mammal species now endangered…much less the 25% of the world’s mammals now facing extinction. Or the nearly one-third of all amphibians now facing extinction. Or the one in eight bird species now threatened with extinction.

We two legs are such great managers, don’cha know.


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Kirk Murphy

Kirk Murphy

terrestrial obligate aerobe with endoskeleton (bony) and bilateral symmetry.

chordate, bipedal, warm-blooded, mammalian, placental (origin), opposable thumbs.

not (yet) extinct.

indigenous habitat: California Live Oak.

current habitat: Central California Coast (most northerly aspect).... 'northwest of the new world, east of the sea'

potential habitats: all potential habitats critically endangered (due to global climate change).

ailurophilic - hence allergic rhinitic.