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What is nature worth? The answer to this question—which traditionally has been framed in environmental terms—is revolutionizing the way we do business.
In Nature’s Fortune, Mark Tercek, CEO of The Nature Conservancy and former investment banker, and science writer Jonathan Adams argue that nature is not only the foundation of human well-being, but also the smartest commercial investment any business or government can make. The forests, floodplains, and oyster reefs often seen simply as raw materials or as obstacles to be cleared in the name of progress are, in fact as important to our future prosperity as technology or law or business innovation.
Who invests in nature, and why? What rates of return can it produce? When is protecting nature a good investment? With stories from the South Pacific to the California coast, from the Andes to the Gulf of Mexico and even to New York City, Nature’s Fortune shows how viewing nature as green infrastructure allows for breakthroughs not only in conservation—protecting water supplies; enhancing the health of fisheries; making cities more sustainable, livable, and safe; and dealing with unavoidable climate change—but in economic progress, as well. Organizations obviously depend on the environment for key resources—water, trees, and land. But they can also reap substantial commercial benefits in the form of risk mitigation, cost reduction, new investment opportunities, and the protection of assets. Once leaders learn how to account for nature in financial terms, they can incorporate that value into the organization’s decisions and activities, just as habitually as they consider cost, revenue, and ROI.
A must-read for business leaders, CEOs, investors, and environmentalists alike, Nature’s Fortune offers an essential guide to the world’s economic—and environmental—well-being.
A Note to Readers
Chapter 1. Maybe It's Not Chinatown After All
Chapter 2. Not a Drop to Drink
Chapter 3. Let Floodplains Be Floodplains
Chapter 4. The New Fishing
Chapter 5. Feeding the World—and Saving It
Chapter 6. The Million-Dollar Mile
Chapter 7. Investing in the Future in the Face of Climate Change
Chapter 8. Town and Country
Chapter 9. The Business Case for Nature
Registration for the conference is free for all members of the Yale community and for all residents of the Greater New Haven area, $15 for all students coming from outside of New Haven, and $30 for all other attendees. If you would like to attend the conference but are not be able to pay the registration fee, please e-mail the student organizers of the conference at YaleEnvLawConference@yale.edu.
Is there an economic value to nature's services? Should this value be incentive enough for us to fund conservation? Can lessons from the corporate world come to the rescue? In an age of increasing environmental degradation and risk, The Nature Conservancy CEO Mark Tercek believes environmentalists need to incorporate business as a partner in making the world sustainable—and that corporations need a healthy environment to stay in business.
Tercek and co-author Jonathan Adams outline examples of this mutually beneficial relationship in Nature’s Fortune: How Business and Society Thrive by Investing in Nature, now available in paperback. Tercek and Adams share the stories behind partnerships involving a range of types of businesses, resources, and tactics, offering an inspirational look at the potential for both environmental and commercial benefit.
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By Mark Tercek, Giulio Boccaletti & Brian Stranko
Last week, government scientists issued their strongest forecast yet for what some are calling a “Godzilla” El Niño. It’s looking more and more likely that the periodic warming of the Pacific Ocean—which can trigger heavy rainfall over the western U.S.-– will bring some relief to drought-weary Californians.
But will it be enough?
In short, no. The last five years are the driest on the state’s record book, and snowpack in the Sierra Nevada—which provides water to six in 10 Californians—hit an all-time low. Farmers and cities are tapping aquifers to maintain supply, but even those are drying up. Rivers and streams that support fish and other wildlife have been reduced to a trickle, and wetlands that provide homes to migrating birds are shrinking.
Even a massive El Niño is unlikely to reverse a drought of these proportions. State water officials estimate it would take 150% of average annual precipitation totals to offset the state’s massive water deficit. That’s more than any El Niño winter on record.
While Californians hope for rain, it remains crucial for the state to improve its long-term water management. Here are some steps to take right now.
1.) Measure it, so we can manage it: Currently, there’s no way to accurately measure total water needs, water use and available supply in California. Real-time data on water needs and availability would enable the state to improve the precision of water flows to people and nature. The more precise we can be, the better we can allocate water and buffer the impact of future droughts.
Measuring the water depth of irrigation ditches allows us to better manage water for cropland use. © Erika Nortemann
2.) Be smart about surpluses: Even as water efficiency increases, any surpluses should be treated with care. This is especially important in agriculture. Farmers are becoming better water managers, but their water savings shouldn’t necessarily be applied to growing additional crops. Water efficiency is a great first step, but it’s important to consider the most productive use of water across all needs.
Water efficiency and smart use of water surpluses are important for all California stakeholders, especially farmers. © Chris Helzer
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Mark Tercek is president and CEO of the Nature Conservancy.