The economics of ecosystems and biodiversity

Just three South East Asian countries support more than 70 percent of the planet's biological diversity.  A substantial part of the region's human population (and often the poorest part of the population) depends directly on these biodiversity resources to provide food, medicine, shelter, clothing and other needs.  Already in the Philippines we are seeing the impact of poor environmental management on coral reefs - threatening the livelihoods of fishermen and undermining the potential for tourism development. (source)
You're probably thinking to yourself, "Yet another pronouncement by yet another environmentalist about how important biodiversity is." Of course, if you read this blog regularly, that's probably not what you're thinking. You know me well enough to know that if it were just another pronouncement by just another environmentalist, I wouldn't bother to highlight the quote so prominently. Instead, you're wondering "What's his angle here? Who said it this time?"

Stephen Lillie, the British Ambassador to the Philippines.

He wrote that in the context of reporting on a recent meeting involving senior officials from the Philippines, Brunei, Indonesia, and Malaysia "organised by the British Embassy and the ASEAN Center for Biodiversity or ACB (which is based in Los Banos near Manila), the meeting was intended to highlight the importance of correctly valuing biodiversity in a country's economic planning, and how failing to account for the value of ecosystems and biodiversity loss risks wrong choices and decisions."

It is gratifying to see senior government officials take the economic value of biodiversity seriously. As Robert Kennedy put it more than 40 years ago, our

Gross National Product counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage.  It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them.  It counts the destruction of the redwood and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl.  It counts napalm and counts nuclear warheads and armored cars for the police to fight the riots in our cities.  It counts Whitman's rifle and Speck's knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.  Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play.  It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials.  It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.  And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.