If a tree stands in the forest, and there’s no economist around to tabulate its benefits to humans, do those benefits still exist?
For government agencies, the answer has long been, “No.” But the Biden administration is poised to change that.
Every day our natural environment provides us with a steady supply of “ecosystem services” that enhance our lives and wellbeing. Examples include flood control for coastal communities provided by wetlands, pollination of commercial crops by bees, and culturally valued experiences that some indigenous communities derive from subsistence fishing.
Critically, the healthier our natural environment, the more — and better — ecosystem services it can provide.
Non-economists have long recognized this beneficial dynamic of our natural environment. But it wasn’t until the 1970s that modern social scientists began to fully grapple with the significance of ecosystem services for our economy.