Excuse me, how much was the Earth?
If we ruin a pair of shoes, lose an earring or set fire (let’s say accidentally) to a house, we are well aware of the damage done and, therefore, how many tears shed.
What’s about the environment? Day after day, ruthless “progress” and population growth cause damages and losses that involve the entire biosphere. The thing doesn’t seem to particularly upset us, at least, not as much as the broken screen of our smartphone would do. But, have you ever wondered how much we would lose, if the Earth were no longer able to provide its many and renewable services?
Robert Costanza with other collaborators did it and they answered this question in their “The value of the world’s ecosystem services and natural capital" .
The study in question tries to assess the market price of the services provided annually by our planet, producing an economic and global estimate of the natural ecosystems on Earth.
Well, the outcome is mind-blowing, but not surprising:
"We have estimated the current economic value of 17 ecosystem services for 16 biomes, based on published studies and a few original calculations. For the entire biosphere, the value (most of which is outside the market) is estimated to be in the range of US$16-54 trillion (10^12) per year, with an average of US$33 trillion per year. Because of the nature of the uncertainties, this must be considered a minimum estimate. Global gross national product total is around US$18 trillion per year. (via nature.com)”
According to Costanza, the nutrient cycling (e.g. nitrogen fixation; N, P and other elemental or nutrient cycles) is the most valuable service —residing at the base of food chain. Then there is the cultural value (e.g. aesthetic, artistic, educational, spiritual and scientific values of ecosystems). Other significant services are: waste treatment; disturbance regulation (for protection from hazardous events such as floods, landslides, hurricanes); water, food, living species, soil supply; etc.
Costanza’s study is 16 years old now, and still, a planetary management of environmental issues is pure utopia… Well, at least, I was able to choose in a moment the image for this post.
Oh, if you are interested in selling the Earth, this work by Fred Pearce should be more suitable.