Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Law and Policy of Ecosystem Services

Ecosystem ServicesFollowing on the heels of my previous post recommending a book, I have another to recommend--mine! So here goes some shameless self-promotion:

The Law and Policy of Ecosystem Services, which I co-authored with economist Steven Kraft and geographer Chris Lant and is published with Island Press, is the first book to explore the context, status, and vision of natural capital and ecosystem services law and policy.

Part I of the book opens with chapter-length primers on the ecology, geography, and economics of natural capital and ecosystem services, which we argue compel using the tools of complex adaptive systems analysis. The dynamic processes of ecosystems, the temporal and spatial complexities of ecosystem services, and the difficult economic problems associated with natural capital present quite an undertaking for policy design.

Part II surveys the current status of property rights, regulation, and social norms relevant to natural capital and ecosystem services. The bottom line: private and public property regimes have established all the wrong incentives; regulatory programs have all but overlooked natural capital and ecosystem service values; and social norms provide little help. Playing on the theme of the tragedy of the commons, we call this the tragedy of ecosystem services.

Part III offers some vision for a way out of the tragedy. We explore the need to identify policy drivers and decision models, and to recognize the trade-offs inherent in moving toward and economic and policy structure that integrates natural capital and ecosystem services aside manufactured and financial capital and human services. We suggest institutional frameworks and innovative policy instruments for getting there.

There is much work to be done on natural capital and ecosystem services--much scientific and policy exploration remains ahead. But the concepts are gaining real-world traction beyond isolated instances of public lands management or government regulation. In the business sector, for example, one start-up company, Conservation Capital, is aimed at identifying economic opportunities from natural capital holdings. And the Katoomba Group tracks markets in ecosystem services much like a Wall Street analyst. If any of that interests you, I think you may find value in leafing through The Law and Policy of Ecosystem Services. I hope you enjoy it.

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