How much is nature worth? One 1997 estimate put its value at $142.7 trillion. But what about those people in China who pollinate apple blossoms by hand? In this episode of Radiolab, Jad and Robert talk with some of my favourite authors, including Carl Zimmer and J.B. Mackinnon, and discover that this simple question – how much is nature worth? – is not very easy to answer.
Bats provide Texas farmers with $700 000 in pest control
If you are a cotton farmer in south Texas, you might be delighted to know that the bats foraging over your crops are eating two-thirds of their body weight in insect pests every night. Out of the $4-5 million these farmers generate each year, this translates into $700 000 that can be ascribed to the pest control that bats perform for free.
But when you dig a little deeper, you find that putting a price on Nature is complicated. And those people painstakingly pollinating apple orchards by hand are a fine example of this. But you’ll have to listen to the show to find out more about that.
Nature is a pool of imagination and creativity
After taking us on a trip of fascinating ideas and insights, the question Jad comes to is this: how can we think about nature in a way that is not tied to our economic systems or fickle aesthetic pleasures? J.B. Mackinnon, author of the brilliant book The Once and Future World, leaves us with this compelling answer to ponder:
In a way, all this diversity – all these wonderful, amazing and alien things that these species can do – is like an extension of our own brains. There is so much imagination out there that we simply could not come up with on our own…we can think of it as a pool of imagination and creativity from which we, as humans, are able to draw on. And when we draw-down on this pool of creativity and imagination, we deeply impoverish ourselves.