By increasing the availability of information on ecosystem services and managing decisions which affect the natural world at both local, regional, national and international levels, the authors of 'Restoring Nature's Capital' argue that the environment can managed more like a 'trust fund' that a current account with a large overdraft.
The work of 17 contributing authors, the report states that ecosystems have for too long been taken for granted whilst economic assessments are made of other social costs:
'If it is helpful to consider our natural resource base as capital assets, it is fair to say that the [Millenium Ecosystem] Assessment demonstrates that humanity has been squandering these assets at a quickening pace. In fact, we have treated many of these assets as if they had no value.'
Continuing the economic metaphor, the researchers point to the demise of power giant Enron as a 'painful reminder' of 'keeping key assets and liabilities off the balance sheet'.
Jonathan Lash, President of the WRI, said that the recognition of climate change has made the responsible stewardship of the environment all the more pressing:
'We must urgently expand the climate debate beyond reducing greenhouse gases to focus on how climate change is altering ecosystem services,' he said at the launch of the report.
Janet Ranganathan, one of the report's lead authors, said that 'business as usual in no longer an option':
'The time has come to stop operating Planet Earth Ltd. solely for the purpose of making a few shareholders rich in the short term," she said, "and instead manage it as a family trust fund, set up for the benefit of today's and tomorrow's children,' she said.
This article first appeared in the Ecologist May 2007