Tuesday, 15 November 2016
What Nature does for Britain by Tony Juniper
I was sceptical of this book before I picked it up as Juniper is well known to support of 'Natural Capital' which its detractors present as being entirely and solely about putting an putting an economic value on nature so we can turn it into a commodity and effectively sell it off to the highest bidder. (You can read my blog post about a conference I went to on this theme here).
However this book isn't about putting a price on nature and natural capital isn't even mentioned until page 250 in a book that is only 256 pages long. Instead we have a very convincing demonstration of the true value of nature and how embracing natural solutions to environmental problems can reduce environmental damage and save money. So it's not about selling off nature, it's about understanding how it can help us, which in turn will make us more inclined to conserve it.
We are given numerous fascinating case studies of how nature can help us including how using sophisticated methods of recycling phosphates from sewage to be used as fertiliser but as a side benefit preventing scale building up in domestic water pipes so saving money in sewage repair works.
British peat bogs are degrading and losing 3.7m tonnes of carbon dioxide a year (this is why wind turnbines should never be planted on peat bogs as they degrade them further and cause more carbon dioxide to be lost). This book shows how better management of upland bogs in Exmoor can reduce people's water bills, reduce the flood risk in the local area and reduce the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere, while conserving the bogs themselves - a win-win-win-win situation!
Each chapter concludes with Juniper's own political manifesto outlining how politicians can address each of the issues set out in the book, which gives it a very practical feel.
I'm still very sceptical about the form of natural capital that seeks to put financial prices on our forests and seas but if we can truly understand the value of nature then we all benefit. I think perhaps the term natural capital comes with too much baggage and maybe we should find another term and another mind set, one that sees value as being about something much more vital than the price tag you can put on something. But in this world that tends often to only see the finances and the economic arguments can we make the right choices in this?
What Nature does for Britain by Tony Juniper, published by Profile Books.
You can read my review of Juniper's earlier book Spix's Macaw here.