WiserEarth.org

We’ve been developing a website to guide communities through evaluating how they might use environmental markets to benefit their conservation and environmental restoration goals. I’ve been researching various approaches to the website development…so looked at this site.

Paul Hawkin, who wrote ‘Natural Capitalism’, has worked over the past few years to create a social networking site, wiseearth.org, to be ‘a community directory and networking forum that maps and connects non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and individuals addressing the central issues of our day: climate change, poverty, the environment, peace, water, hunger, social justice, conservation, human rights and more.’

http://www.wiserearth.org/

Ecosystem Services: A 21st Century Policy Challenge

Attached is an issue of Choices Magazine which is a publication of the American Agricultural Economics Association. It is an interesting look at the farm as managed ecosystem. There is an article by the faculty at the University of Rhode Island concerning our USDA Conservation Innovation Grant…the Bobolink Project.

Here’s the link:

http://www.choicesmagazine.org/magazine/pdf/block_9.pdf

Owning Structure

Jim Hightower, who calls himself America’s Number 1 Populist, has recently written an editorial called ‘Speculators and our food’. From Mr. Hightower:

Speculators have long messed with farmers by artificially manipulating prices on everything from corn to soybeans. But now they’re pooling up billions of dollars from global investors to go after the farms themselves, as well as the fertilizer plants, grain elevators, ships and barges and other basic tools for producing, shipping, and storing our food supply. As one hedge fund operator says: “It’s going on big time. There is considerable interest in what we call ‘owning structure.'”

My Illinois farming friend John Phipps several years ago started getting calls from Wall Street folks wanting advice on buying farmland.

I also know that many of the financial products that Mr. Hightower sees as speculative also allow farmers to manage risk… but, like oil options, those markets have speculators. Unfortunately, his concern for stability in food -both production and prices – is completely valid.

We need to make certain our market structures for food (and other ecoproducts) are sincere. If it looks and walks like a duck, it should be a duck.

New Study on the Value of Coastal Wetlands

From a recent Greenwire Press Release:
U.S. coastal wetlands provide more than $23 billion in annual storm protection services to cities and regions most vulnerable to hurricane and tropical storm surges, according to a study released today.The University of Vermont’s Gund Institute for Ecological Economics prepared the study, which finds that “coastal wetlands provide ‘horizontal levees’ that are maintained by nature and are far more cost-effective than constructed levees.”

Moreover, the researchers said, “If the frequency and intensity of hurricanes increases in the future, as some are predicting as a result of climate change, the value of coastal wetlands for protection of these storms will also increase.”

The findings, while part of a broader body of research on the value of coastal wetlands, are relevant for policymakers because they provide a rare glimpse at the financial impacts associated with wetland losses in storm-prone areas.

The study found wide variability in wetlands’ protective value between coastal areas on the Atlantic Ocean versus the Gulf of Mexico, depending upon the number of wetland acres present and the value of infrastructure behind such wetlands.

Louisiana, for example, had the most wetland acres but less threatened infrastructure than either Florida or Texas, thus driving down the protective value of the state’s wetlands. New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts, meanwhile, had fewer wetlands but very high infrastructure values, given real estate values along the Eastern Seaboard.

But Louisiana’s higher frequency of destructive storms makes the economic impact of its wetlands losses particularly acute. For example, as a result of the disappearance of coastal wetlands in Louisiana before Hurricane Katrina, additional wetlands vanished during the hurricane, and the resulting lost protection of infrastructure, crops, housing, revenues, employment and stable markets was valued at $1.1 billion.

The researchers drew their findings from regression modeling done for 34 major U.S. hurricanes dating back to 1980, including 2005’s record-breaking year for both the number of storms making landfall in the United States and their devastating economic impacts. The models estimate that 1 hectare (2.47 acres) of coastal wetland loss corresponded to an average $33,000 increase in storm damage from specific storms.

The research was published in AMBIO, a journal of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences focused on environmental topics.