Natural Capital, the value of Nature in all of her glory, is there anybody out there investing?
This meme, ‘natural capital’, has been around for 20+ years but it’s never quite seemed to catch hold.
It seems that for as long as there is ‘wild capital’ that can be simply hunted or harvested the value isn’t in the Natural it’s in the Capital.
Perhaps the most pitiful example is the value of the Giant Bluefin Tuna, which are now hunted nearly to extinction, fewer that 3% remain. The last of these kings of all fish now sell for as much as a million dollars each in Tokyo’s fish markets.
Promoting the value of natural capital has been claimed by its proponents to not be a purely altruistic endeavour. But the real world economics of the things valued most in Nature belies that sentiment. It is never made more apparent when a single incredibly rare tuna that might live for a century and spawn hundreds of millions of her children is sold to the highest bidder. The bidding war determines who is willing to pay any price to be seen as having the greatest machismo of all by feasting on the rarest of Natural Capital.
On land trees are the Giant Blue Fin Tuna. Old growth trees that have grown for centuries that happen be near to roadways fall victim every night to tree rustlers.
A single tree that falls in the night when there is no one to hear it fall ends up on a pirate logging truck and at a lumber mill hours later with the rustlers making off with tens of thousands of dollars for their plunderous night. While there may be a great deal of ‘capital’ in Nature, that capital all too often merely reveals the sinister nature of human capitalists/pirates.
The problem with the ‘Natural Capital’ movement is that it’s goals are to preserve the last of increasingly rare bits of Nature more often than not eschewing the restoration of the harm Nature has already suffered. In being eco-political-business advocates ‘natural capitalists’ harvest much of their capital in the form of a donate here button. Legions of activists garner a ‘green’ living and lifestyle that suits their naturalist dreams, while that may be a rather meager income for most, for some the lifestyle it provides is one for the rich and famous. Frequently the real rich and famous are found hosting the ‘natural capitalists’ and lavishing their attention upon them. The longer the natural crisis remains the longer the natural capital gravy train will continue to run. There is an alternative.
I restore trees and seas
Here’s My Grandfatherly Personal History About Investing A Lifetime In Service To Mother Nature.
“With my retirement fund and a couple bucks I can use my accumulated natural capital wealth to buy a cup of coffee.”
Forty years ago as a long haired hippy ‘back to the lander’ I lived in teepees and log cabins in the wilds of Western Canada amongst the grizzly bears and wild things. I discovered that planting trees was one of the few sources of income out there, not nearly so well paying as being a tree faller which I tried for a short time but had to quit when I could no longer bear to hear the trees scream, but planting a tree is better than killing a tree.
In my first job as a treeplanter, ‘working for the man,’ the government agent, I discovered of course that our worker minimum wage labor was being exploited by ‘the man.’ I soon discovered that treeplanting was done via a competitive contract bidding process and so I simply started to ‘bid’ on treeplanting contracts and began winning those contracts. My ‘natural capitalist’ notions were that I and my friends ought to share the proceeds of the contract planting more equally, according to the work we did.
We were a wild and woolly bunch and more than happy to move our tents and teepees to the base of a burnt black clear cut wasteland that was once an old growth forest. We’d hire one of our own to be the camp cook to make our porridge for breakfast, lay out the bread and delectables to make our bag lunches, and have a giant pot of burgoo on the fire for when we traipsed wearily back to camp from newly planted slopes as darkness fell.
For a time ‘the man’ was out of the equation and our share of the ‘natural capital’ for restoring those devastated ecosystems was many times the minimum wages we’d received for our labor from ‘the man’. Those were good times and we did our back-breaking work on behalf of nature and with joy. Today as a result of the company I and my true friends of the earth created hundreds of millions of trees are slowly but surely healing the wounds inflicted on Nature by of others of our kind.
But by and large the hippie treeplanter ‘hodad’ epoch was short-lived. I went on to becoming a restoration ecologist in partnership with a university professor friend, a more intellectually satisfying profession, and from there on to working as a government environmental manager, oh my god I became ‘the man’. My treeplanting company went on to be managed by money grubbing people and eventually bought out by wealthy doctor and dentist ‘natural capital’ investors who reinstated minimum wage for the planters.
What Does The Future Hold For Real Natural Capital
One can find copious reading on the topic of ‘Natural Capital’ or attend countless symposia on the topic, some held in the hallowed halls of great business schools down the road from major venture capital enclaves. Just Google “Stanford Natural Capital” and note that a soon to happen symposium there is walking distance from the legendary Sandhill Road Venture Capital center that is said to have the highest density of VC’s (venture or vulture capital) of anyplace on earth.
Or one can just get on with working on behalf of Mother Nature and follow my guiding principal and mantra. Note it’s a ‘mantra’ not a ‘motto’ and it says,
“Save the world, make a little money on the side.”
If you repeat this often enough you might just save some of the world. If you decide, like so many, that you prefer to reverse the sentiments and say, “Make money, save a little world on the side”, then you might make more money but you will surely go straight to hell, that’s the nature of things!
Working for Mother Nature is the natural thing to do, as we are part of her Nature.
These days I don’t do so much on the treeplanting path of life though I have one special project in Eastern Europe where I hope to soon plant some tens of millions of trees. My earnest money payment is that before I can make it possible to plant those trees someone has to go into the forest and collect acorns and beech nuts in the late summer and early fall. We need the seeds to grow our tree seedlings that we plant to restore a million hectares of land back to Nature.
It is my dream to be there with a cabal of Gypsies who reside in the region and are the local field labour. We’ll walk the woods beginning at the break of day and at the end of the day return to camps where great pots of Goulash will have been stewing over open fires awaiting the hungry returning natural capitalists. After dinner there will be wine and song and dancing around the great camp fire in the forest. Rain or shine for a couple months that is where you will find me just as the leaves of the trees are turning into their fall colors.
Where else to find me.
Most likely I will be found, for the remainder of my grandfather life, out at sea working on my more recent decades of passionate engagement with Mother Nature, Mother Ocean. Hundreds of miles from land out on the vast blue part of this blue planet where 99% of life is found, Nature is there and in greatest of need as are her dying ocean pastures that are fast becoming clear blue lifeless deserts.
This is a tough environment where for some reason in spite of my proclivity for becoming seasick I work to restore those ocean pastures. It is satisfying beyond compare as the ocean ecology is a fast acting one. While a forest takes decades to slowly grow an ocean pasture goes from being a clear blue lifeless desert to becoming the Garden of Eden virtually overnight.
Where one day before we start work seabirds are rarely seen, perhaps just a few each day, later following this natural work the seabirds arrive in countless multitudes, tens of thousands of them. Their bird song often so cacophonous the sound drowns out all other sound, even the mighty diesel engines of the ship. With the birds come the great whales not one or two but by the score. The shyest of all the great whales, the fins, will swim right up to me and gaze into my eyes with their beautiful eyes bringing with them their whale calves swimming so close I could step off my boat onto their backs. And of course there are the fish, read on to know how they respond. That’s true natural capital! A return on investment that cannot be measured save in the form of memories that are worth a lifetime of effort.
If money you have but peace you lack, join me, not for what you will earn but for the memories. I can promise it will be as if you have dipped yourself in magic waters. The memories will be so thick you’ll have to wipe them away from your cheeks along with your tears of joy. Nature has been erased like a blackboard, and we can and must restore her again. She is a part of us. She will remind you of all that once was good and that could be again.