A View from the Future: Financing Large Scale Restoration
E.O. Wilson said that the “the next century will… be the era of restoration in ecology.” But what he didn’t mention was how and by whom that era of restoration would be financed and the criteria private capital would use for their investment decisions. This week I am attending a business conference on emerging carbon and environmental markets. Many new and well known financial and investment firms (along with the usual assortment of government and academic folks) are here hoping to legitimate these new commodities (carbon allowances and offsets, stream and wetland mitigation banking, species and biodiversity banking and trading, etc) and capitalize on their investments in these emerging markets. In my first response I asked whether social and political goals should be included in how we, as scientists, evaluate restoration success. I asked this question because “social success,” especially at the international level, is now a necessary metric in securing financing for large-scale restoration efforts. If we, as dreamers of the end of Wilson’s “great extinction spasm,” want to practice the scale of restoration necessary to accomplish this feat, we will only be able to mobilize the necessary private capital by paying attention to how our applied science intersects with people and institutions. For example, credits resulting from a restored forest that sequesters carbon that includes social goals is priced higher than a restoration project without social metrics. But maybe it is not our job as scientists to care about the human dimensions of restoration. Maybe that should be left up to finance capital.
Image: Ecosystem Restoration Associates Inc. - "Bringing Carbon Back to Life" (!)