Monday, August 18, 2008

Investing in Ecosystems

Stanford biologist sees money in preservation
Carrie Sturrock, SF Chronicle, August 18, 2008

Gretchen Daily, a Stanford biology professor, is working to protect the planet by convincing governments and big investors there's money to be made - or at least saved - in preserving nature instead of exploiting it.

Daily is the co-founder and chair of the Stanford-based Natural Capital Project. Under her leadership, a team of scientists has created software called InVEST, which can estimate the worth of a natural resource. In November, it will be distributed free. Already the Colombian government plans to use it to relicense water and land access.

Daily is the first biologist to attend a brainstorming session at Goldman Sachs, where she and some of Wall Street's brightest minds discussed how to create a financial model for pricing nature. She is working with economists, lawyers, and businesspeople to try to forge a new paradigm for the conservation movement.

She recently won the Sophie Prize, one of the environmental world's most esteemed honors. However, she makes clear that her "ecosystem services" ideas aren't new: the notion that nature provides invaluable services can be traced to Plato.

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