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“Banking Nature”, a new documentary about putting a price on nature

2015-01-22-150723_1130x984_scrotPutting a price on nature seems like a simple idea: If nature had a price, wouldn’t corporations and governments be less likely to destroy it? Wouldn’t putting a price on nature overturn what economist Pavan Sukhdev calls “the economic invisibility of nature”?

An obvious response to the idea of putting a price on nature, is that if nature has a price, it’s only a matter of time before a company decides it’s worth paying that price in order to destroy it.

It all sounds rather like another simple idea – putting a price on the carbon stored in forests will make forests worth more standing than logged. REDD was going to be a quick and cheap way of saving the rainforests and stopping climate change.

Reality, of course, turns out to be rather more complex.

A new documentary, “Banking Nature”, investigates the commodification of nature. The documentary will be broadcast on Arte on 3 February 2015.

Here’s a trailer:

Here are a few quotations:

  • “Financialisation equals the rape of the earth.”
    Vandana Shiva, environmental activist.
  • “We use nature because she’s valuable, but we lose nature because she’s free.”
    Pavan Sukhdev, CEO of GIST Advisory (former Managing Director at Deutsche Bank).
  • “A licence to kill nature.”
    Pablo Solon, Executive Director of Focus on the Global South (former Ambassador of Bolivia to the United Nations).
  • “If we invest money in protecting nature, we’ll earn very, very high financial returns.”
    Mark Tercek, CEO of The Nature Conservancy (former investment banker at Goldman Sachs).

And here’s how the directors, Denis Delestrac and Sandrine Feydel, describe the documentary:

We investigate the commercialization of the natural world. Protecting our planet has become big business with companies like Merrill Lynch and JP Morgan Chase promoting new environmental markets. This involves species banking, where investors buy up vast swathes of land, full of endangered species, to enable them to sell ‘nature credits’. Companies whose actions destroy the environment are now obliged to buy these credits and new financial centres have sprung up, specializing in this trade.
In countries like America, the system works very well. Many respected economists, like Pavan Sukhev, believe that the best way to protect nature is to put a price on it. But others fear that this market in nature could lead to companies having a financial interest in a species’ extinction. There are also concerns that – like the dotcom bubble of the 1990s or the subprime mortgage crisis of 2008 – the market in nature credits is bound to crash.
And there are wider issues at stake. What guarantees do we have that our natural inheritance will be protected? And should our ecological heritage be for sale?


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  1. Is it really so difficult to distinguish the difference between a terrorist and a patriot.
    Are they not simply constructs by those who believe that god is on their side. Oblivious to the obvious that the one god has two sons.
    So with the wanton destruction of a complex planet as Earth to enable that only one species will eventually populate and dominate why fear the invasion by aliens when we are acting as their proxies.
    Competition in the Market place I suppose?
    Leave nothing for the enemy unrealistic as he might be?
    As for the search for intelligent life on other planets?
    How in the cosmos will we be able to determine what is intelligent life when we ourselves are devoid of significant intelligence. because
    How is it intelligent to destroy the very fabric upon which we depend except to create a new fabric upon which we will be forced to depend at good and sensible market prices.
    And if he were here Shakespeare would simply proclaim “That is the rub”.
    A democratic society must wonder why it can be hijacked by those it has entrusted to protect and honour its integrity as it rejects it’s own method of wanton savagery upon those who offend it’s nature.
    The corporate world presumes too much but relies unfortunately upon those gifted enough to exploit the system of their own making that depends on Laws devoid of any ethical or moral considerations. The very Laws that seek to prevent anyone from seizing another’s property without due process. The dispossessed can under the Law seek redress. Because that will occupy this Market Place.
    Nature “depends” upon our intellectual honesty and selfless sensibility not to strip her of her assets for cheap gain. After all did not the earlier inhabitant demonstrate this reality – because Nature’s assets were their currency.
    They did not have to buy what they already had available to them for the taking.

    “Banking Nature” illustrates the Colonial tendency, still alive, be it Corporate or Emperial to appropriate another’s assets without apparently paying for the true value or even considering it’s true worth.

    “Eat, Drink and make merry for tomorrow is not our concern” appears to be the individuals ‘ cry of those so irresponsibly posing as visionaries of our corporations..
    When all is said and done we can always feast upon …
    “Soylent Green”.