Valuing Nature in Real-World Decisions


Well, I’d like to
welcome you all to MIT if you’re not from MIT. And welcome to
32-123 if you are. I want to particularly welcome
you to the 17th Henry Kendall Lecture which will be presented
today by Professor Gretchen Daily. So I’m Ron Prinn I direct
MIT’s Center for Global Change Science that co-sponsors
this lecture series together with the Department
of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences on
which I am a faculty member. So the Henry Kendall
Memorial Lecture series honors the memory of
Professor Henry Kendall. He was a Nobel laureate
in physics in 1990 and a very long time
distinguished member of the MIT’s physics faculty. And as most of you
know in this audience, he was an ardent
environmentalist. The Kendall lecture allows
MIT faculty and students and the public to be
introduced to forefront areas in global change science
by outstanding researchers. And we have had a wonderful
group in the past. And we’re looking forward very
much to Gretchen’s talk here. Henry was a founding member
and past chair of the Union of Concerned Scientists. He played a leading
role in organizing a number of very influential
scientific community statements on global problems, including
the World’s Scientists Warning to Humanity in 1992
and a call for action at the Kyoto Climate
Summit in 1997. So he’s quoted in a little
booklet that you can pick up– I hope you were able to
pick up– as you walk in. If not, there will be
more copies out there to take when you leave. Coincidentally, this
particular lecture marks the 50th
anniversary of the Union of Concerned Scientists. And Dr. Peter Frumhoff is
somewhere in the audience here or should be. Ah, yes, there. So congratulations to the
UCS for this milestone in the history of
that organization. So today’s lecturer,
Gretchen Daily, she is the Bing professor
of environmental science in the Department of Biology
at Stanford University. She’s the director of the
Center for Conservation Biology at Stanford and a senior
fellow at Stanford’s Woods Institute for the Environment. Her overall interests include
biogeography, conservation biology, and ecology. Gretchen Daily’s
scientific research addresses what is now known
as countryside biogeography and also the future dynamics
of biodiversity change. Countryside biogeography is
a new conceptual framework for elucidating the fate
of population species and ecosystems in a growing
fraction of the Earth’s non-urban land surface whose
ecosystem qualities are more and more strongly
influenced by humanity. And the issue is, where
does all of this go? Using findings from
research done in countryside biogeography, Gretchen
and colleagues are attempting to
determine what species are most important and
most merit protection. And what is the scientific
basis for deciding the relative importance
of species within a given ecosystem? She is attempting to
link projected changes in biodiversity and ecosystems
to changes in services to humanity, such as production
of goods, life support processes, and genetic
diversity for future use– in other words, to put a
price on the environment that we should keep
very much in mind. It isn’t just there to look at. We now use it more and more. As one of the co-founders of
the Natural Capital Project, she’s working with private
landowners, economists, lawyers, business people,
and government agencies to incorporate environmental
issues into business practice and public policy. Gretchen received her
bachelor’s in 1986, master’s in 1987, PhD in 1992,
all in biological sciences, all at Stanford University,
very easy to introduce degrees. [LAUGHTER] Gretchen Daily has received
many awards and honors during her academic career. And I’m going to read
them, because it’s an impressive list,
not all of them. The 21st Century
Scientist Award in 2000, the Sophie Prize in 2008, the
International Cosmos Prize in 2009, the 16th
Annual Heinz Award with a special focus
on global change, the Midori Prize in 2010, Volvo
Environment Prize and 2012, Blue Planet Prize in 2017,
these are all of the things that, in environmental
science, they’re coveted prizes to be sure. She also received the 2018
BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award. Gretchen is a board member
at the Beijer Institute for Ecological Economics and
at the Nature Conservancy, a member of the US National
Academy of Sciences, and a fellow of the American
Academy of Arts and Sciences, and of the American
Philosophical Society. OK. So it is my great pleasure to
welcome you, Gretchen, to MIT today. The title of Gretchen’s
talk, as you can see, is Valuing Nature in
Real-World Decisions. [APPLAUSE] Thank you for that
really kind introduction and mainly for the
invitation out here. There’s so much
fabulous work going on. And I’ve had a just
fantastic day meeting with students and faculty here. And I know it’s a
big room, and we want to have sort of
intimate conversation here. But feel free to
interrupt at any time and raise questions or
comments as we go along. What I’d like to do
I guess first off, let me see if I can open this. Oops. Yeah– just start off reflecting
on some occasions when I felt so lucky to get to
know Henry Kendall myself. I was a postdoc working
at this wonderful lab. How many of you know the Rocky
Mountain Biological Lab up in Colorado at
Gothic near Crested Butte at about 10,000 feet? So that was a good spot
from Henry’s point of view. And he’d come out
in the summers. There were a lot of interesting
people there including John Holdren, who’s been
Obama’s Science Advisor and is at Harvard now, and Tim
Wirth, senator from Colorado who got a lot of
environmental legislation passed back in the day and
then ran the UN Foundation, and a whole slew of
scientists really passionate about research and about the
fate of the world, our subjects today. And I remember Henry. We’d get to sit around. He stayed with me and
these other grad students in our lowly cabin. And we had a lot of fun
chatting into the evenings. And I remember he used to say
something that I didn’t quite get at the time, but I could
tell I needed to get it, that summers are
becoming more and more like long weekends for me. And I’m getting it now
as I get older myself. And he also said
a lot, you know, about this, quoted on the
UCS website and elsewhere. “We must act swiftly
in order to halt the decay our planet faces.” And that was kind
of at the forefront of a lot of the conversation. And it’s sure more and
more at the forefront of all our thinking, I’m
sure, to have you come here. And so I’m going to start
off on a tough note, you know, as to
all that we face. But then what I want to do is
get into some really promising looking pathways, I mean,
ever-holding onto hope that we can drive
the change that we need to open a better future,
to secure people and nature. So living in California,
it’s just unreal. I can’t tell you. Even being relatively far
from most of these fires, it’s unreal living
there and having this kind of a tragedy unfold. And I know it’s the case all
across in different forms North America, here Houston, and then
obviously across the world. We all work very
internationally. I work a lot in China now. And it’s just staggering
to see the extremes that are opening up in
human experience and to ask ourselves, well,
what can we do at this point? What should we try to do? And what are the most
maybe strategic pathways for making an impact? So that’s what I’d
like to get into. And I’ve taken a point of entry
relating to valuing nature. And you’ll see what
I mean by that. It’s partly sort of
putting a price tag on. So rather than an all
you can eat buffet, we have a sense of scarcity
and that we need some table manners. And we need to be investing in– I’m just seeing some
good friends here– our life support systems
as opposed to looking at them as sort of
one-time exhaustable sort of set of resources. And I’m going to start
with Costa Rica, one of my favorite
countries where I’ve been lucky to work since 1991. Here’s a shot of me back
then as a grad student. And the question of the day
was could biodiversity exist outside of native habitat? Especially tropical
biodiversity that had evolved in moist,
darker, tropical forests, could it really
survive and thrive out in the much drier open,
exposed to sunlight, agricultural areas? So I bring this up,
because it meant going around to a lot
of different farms and asking to work on
those farms to see, given that agriculture and
our food production activities are in many ways the biggest
driver of biodiversity loss up to now, whether we
could confront that by integrating
nature more cleverly into agricultural practices. So working on a lot
of people’s lands, they all said, sure, come on. Let me show you
everything I got. And they’d give me their kids
to help monitor and guard our little traps, in this
case, for butterflies, putting little numbers on
the butterflies to see how they traveled
around the landscape. Using this kind of delicious
rotting banana bait that was spiked with
molasses and rum, we’d bring these butterflies
in from all over. And the thing I kept
coming up against, though, as a grad student back then was
how, just to mention one angle, these kids all ate
the butterfly bait. And it was sweet at one level. At another level, the bait
turned bad after a few hours. And it’s that the kids
didn’t have enough to eat. And you know, I kept
feeling very uncomfortable pursuing these studies
and wondering, well, how could we really harmonize
the need to grow more food and to have livelihoods,
whether it’s in food production or coffee or
other things with conservation? And about that time, this
amazing scientist Alvaro Umana you might have heard of him,
he shared in the Nobel Peace Prize. He’s a hydrologist
and an economist, got his degrees at Stanford. So I happened to
get to know him. And then he set up the first
Ministry of Environment and Energy in Costa Rica. And he set up the first national
payment for ecosystem services scheme, where you’re
basically saying, OK, ecosystems are
a capital asset just like other types of capital. Physical capital,
like here we have in our universities or homes. Human capital, as we cultivate
here our knowledge and skills, as well as our health. Other types of capital we can
think about that ecosystems also provide a
stream of benefits. And he set up a program
that’s been, by all accounts, subject to a lot of
scrutiny and things. But over all these years, it’s
been operating for over 20 years now that paid people
for this particular set of services. And he got European countries
to buy in to the first carbon offsets for climate stability. He got the national
hydropower company, the electricity company
basically– most of Costa Rica’s electricity is
generated through hydropower– to pay in for the
role of forests and regulating water
flow and maintaining the lifetime of
hydropower facilities, holding back sediment
and stuff like that. Biodiversity benefits, he
got Merck Pharmaceuticals to pay in. It was just sort of
a nominal amount, but, you know, raised
awareness of the fact that the majority of our
modern day pharmaceuticals, something like 120
of the top 150, trace their origin to plants,
mostly tropical plants. And then scenic beauty
with all there is– often the biggest sector
in Costa Rica is tourism. So these payments might
look like very little, but this amount would be a lot
actually in the United States even to shift practices on land. And they are credited together
with other policy changes. It’s always hard to
disentangle the exact impact of any particular change in a
rapidly changing and complex world, but credited with having
helped turn around a situation where Costa Rica had the highest
deforestation rate in the world ever recorded to now
having net reforestation. So with that sort of story
in mind, what I’d like to do is go through an arc of thinking
about what understanding we need that we can generate in
universities through research, and then what connection we
need with people out on the land and in policy arenas and
financial investment arenas and such to bring about that
kind of a transformation where we’re driving economic
dimensions of growth that are important, but at the same
time dramatically reducing our impact on the
life support systems we depend on utterly, so
securing human well-being at the same time as securing the
environment over the long run. So all this has led to Costa
Rica remaining a pioneer. We’re continuing to work there. The new president– I don’t know
how many of you know of him. I think he’s the
youngest on Earth. He got elected at the age of 38. And now, he’s a ripe old 39. And he’s supporting
a lot of investment in decarbonizing
the economy by 2050 is the goal in a
race to be the first or among the first
nations to do so and in designing many other
types of investments in nature and restoring even much
more forest, for example, than they have so far. So to tell this story, I’m
going to back off a little bit and give a bit of the history
going back to yet another Nobel laureate, Ken Arrow,
who is based at Stanford University– passed away
just a couple of years ago but played a founding role,
and a really vital role, in legitimizing and
developing a new field kind of at the interface
of environment, or certainly ecology
and economics, and kind of incorporating
many other disciplines into the effort as time went on,
and just showing how nature can be seen as a type of asset,
and justifying investments in nature, even within our
current economic system. Shortly after that arena
started opening up, there were many pioneering
cases actually coming along, the one in Costa Rica
being just one example. Another with which you’re
probably all familiar here in New York was a decision
when water quality started dipping below
minimum EPA standards to invest not in a water
filtration plant, like they had for the Croton watershed
where about 10% of the water supply for
New York originates, but instead to invest up in the
Catskills-Delaware, watershed where 90% of the
water originates at a much lower cost. So that was sort of their choice
investing in physical capital or in natural capital to achieve
water security for the 9 or 10 million people drinking
water in New York City. And it was estimated to be a
lot less expensive at $1 to $1 and 1/2 billion going
into the watershed and changing the way people
like David Holley, the guy standing on the left, is
managing his dairy farm using that solar heated tent in place
of the beautiful, but otherwise not very healthy,
New England barns. You know the traditional barns,
a bit dank and dark inside, where cattle are– or dairy cows– often getting
different types of illness that get passed right on to people. So with that stark
difference investing in the operations of farmers
and foresters and sort of towns up in the Catskills versus
paying $6 to $8 billion to build a filtration plant,
the decision was clear. It was wasn’t without a battle
that I’m sure you know about. But it was a pretty
stark choice back then. And the decision
has been maintained. New York City is still
reliant on filtering its water naturally through the roots and
soils of the Catskills mountain range rather than through
any built filtration system. So in a way, it’s a
triple win, right? The people in the
city, so far, are getting clean drinking water
at the lowest possible cost. People up in the source area
are getting paid for benefits that they’ve supplied throughout
the history of the city, but never really
been recognized for. And then if you care
about anything else, would you rather have
a romantic weekend away at a filtration plant or
up in the beautiful Catskills? You can think of the many
other benefits that were not really quantified
in this analysis, and yet that are being
supported by the decision. So how do we extend that? How do we systematize and
build a universal approach to take these cases
and replicate them all over the world? Supposedly a kind of back
of the envelope analysis shows that at least a quarter
of the world’s major cities would have an economic
justification in investing in upper watersheds
to secure water supply rather than building
filtration plants. What’s limiting us in
replicating and scaling that New York City model? How do we extend Costa Rica’s
model across other countries and drive open this
pathway to green growth or green development that
would have multiple wins? That’s the big
challenge before us. So about this
time, a large group formed the Natural
Capital Project. It’s basically a partnership
into which everyone is welcome. There are about 50 research
institutions, about 200 plus implementing
institutions around the world. And the idea is to build
up these approaches, demonstrate them,
and scale them. So– just a tiny
bit of background to dive in to a few stories
on both the research and on how it’s going in terms
of scaling and real impact. So what is natural capital? We’re just talking about Earth’s
lands, waters, and variety of life, or biodiversity,
which you would have read about in the papers today is
being driven to extinction at an all time record rate. And then so what is the
value of natural capital? That’s a tough question. And we’ve often
thought about not wanting to be offensive
or, worse, just completely lacking in meaning and trying to
slap a price tag on nature when we know that at one level it’s
sort of infinitely valuable. We’re all part of nature. If we think about our
lives and how brief they are on this planet and what
we’re all connected to, we could get into realms that
are kind of being left behind in the way cultures
are evolving today, and yet are really important
for thinking about what matters and that thought that nature
is infinitely valuable. And we shouldn’t be,
from a moral perspective, just driving everything
to extinction as the dominant
species on the planet. Yet in decisions, mostly
nature comes in that at zero if it’s not something to
be extracted or mined. And in which case,
it’s not living anyway. So neither of those extremes
has helped inform decisions in a productive way. And the idea here is to
develop lower-bound values that are meaningful and
change decisions. So obviously, we can think
about being on a sterile planet, like the moon, and recognize
that, in fact, we’re totally dependent, always
have been and always will be, on the different
life support processes of the biosphere, that
thin layer of life about Earth for our atmosphere, for soils,
and all their fertility, for the hydrologic cycle,
for basically everything that underpins our food security,
water security, climate, and energy security,
health, and so on. But how do we reconcile with
the rapid rate of depletion that Henry was so
concerned with? And how do we operate given that
now humanity is a global force more than ever before demanding
more and more of nature, making it more and
more scarce, how do we capture the value in our
decisions before it’s too late? So there wasn’t much on
this in the early days. What we’ve developed as a
community over the past 20 years basically is
an approach that is oriented around informing
decisions, like I said, and looking at how alternative
decisions, our different choices– building a filtration
plant or investing in the upper
watershed to restore the functioning of nature– how they affect
ecosystems, how that would affect the delivery
of services or benefits to people, improving
well-being, and then how we can transmit
that understanding through our institutions
to change decisions. That’s kind of the framing. And I’ll just dive
into some stories more on the right there asking
a couple of basic questions, and then showing how we
can take this understanding and really drive
change in policy, in finance, and in management. So heading over here,
I’m going to first dive into this question of, what
good is biodiversity, basically, if you’re a farmer? We’re all consumers of
what farmers produce, so we ought to care as well. But if you’re out
in the countryside, how do you harmonize? How do you make it
so those girls eating the bait for the butterfly
traps can live a decent life and sustain or restore
tropical forest? And how much hope is there even
for sustaining biodiversity in deforested parts
of the countryside? What we’ve found over
about 30 years now of many doctoral dissertations
and many different approaches to the research
is that a lot can be sustained, not everything,
but a significant amount. And I’ll show you more
specifically in a second of native tropical biodiversity
and farming habitats if we conduct our farming
in a wildlife-friendly way, like this royal fly
catcher getting pretty upset at being caught in a net. But he’s about to be let go. There’s his mate, even more
upset at the whole thing. Here’s a bat, the biggest
bat, spectral bat, found in the Americas. And it’s the largest
carnivorous bat, goes around eating those birds. And here we are in
a coffee plantation. That’s a coffee shrub over
the shoulder of there– so all kinds of stuff,
the silky anteater. If you go around and do
any level of looking, this is a really
bright, hopeful finding. And over the many years of
these different dissertations, what I’m going to show here
is just one little summary set of statistics. The fraction found in forest
only, it’s high for plants. You see, most plants
are found in forest only in the dark green
part of the bar. But with just about
everything else, if you have enough
forest in a landscape, it seems that at least over
the decadal old time scale– it’s hard to say over
the long, long run– you can sustain surprisingly
high levels, abundances, and diversities of these
different groups of organisms. So that’s the proportion of
native species to Costa Rica and all those different groups. So that’s really hopeful. But so let’s say
you’re a farmer. And that means you do have
a potential role to play. But why would you adjust
your farming in order to sustain biodiversity? What benefits might
there be for you? Are there any at all,
or would you just be providing a public
service for society? And here’s one way
into the problem. It’s just to think about, well,
what do all these organisms do? And what do we depend on? You know, one case
is pollination. A huge fraction of our
crops, about a third of our food supply, comes
from pollinated species of types of crops. And you know, it’s the
most nutritious stuff. It’s the fruits, vegetables,
nuts, and things like that. And that shows you this is
part of the country where a lot of coffee is grown. I think we’re all probably
even more dependent on coffee these days at MIT and Stanford
than fruits, and nuts, and veggies. But anyway, it’s pollinated. But, actually, guess how
many weeks of the year coffee is blooming? And think about
it from the point of view of a bee
pollinator that needs nectar and pollen every day. Can a pollinator survive
in a coffee plantation? There’s basically no way. Does anybody want to guess how
many days of the year coffee is blooming providing
nectar and pollen? It’s something like
five days a year. And it’s a
spectacular five days. It looks like the
whole landscape has erupted in sort of popcorn. But in that brief
time, bees come out from nearby forest where you’ve
got a huge variety of plants that are blooming in all the
different weeks of the year and supporting what bees need. So we can ask that question. Does the nearby forest
benefit coffee farmers? And can we measure
those benefits? So I’m going to show you
just really briefly how this sort of work is done. Across the landscape, you try to
find places that, in this case, are near and far from forest
where coffee is being grown and where you’re controlling
for the many other factors that could vary across a
distance gradient like that. And you want to isolate
the effect of distance from forest on the bee community
and the activities of the bees. And what we found
is the further– well, the closer you
are, say, to forest, the more diverser the bees,
the more pollination you had. So you’re there counting
the little tiny pollen grains that are transferred
between flowers. And you actually got 20% higher
yields and 50% higher quality. And this is in coffee, a plant
that’s now self-pollinating. But there’s still a huge
benefit to cross fertilization. So for this one
farm, that amounted to a little over $60,000
per year additional income. And that’s massive,
all the difference between being bankrupt and
being solvent and profitable as a farmer. So you could ask
this same question about other types of services. In the case of the bees,
here’s another question for you just to have your mind going. Guess how many types of bee
are out there performing pollination in coffee? Is it 10, or 20? Anybody want to
throw out a number? 3. 30. 30. It’s a staggering– yeah. What were you going to guess? 3. OK. There is about 700. Oh. I mean, I’m just brushing
past things here. But we nearly went blind
and crippled hunched over microscopes with the
glorious day outside while we determined the identity
of all these bees. You can tell them
apart looking at things like whether the hairs split
on their backs and stuff like that. They can tell each
other apart easily, but this is tricky business. So yeah, that study took a
while to do, a couple of years. It takes nine months
even for the coffee to mature after
being fertilized. So with similar
undertakings, we then went to look at pest control. So here, this was all led
by Taylor Ricketts, who’s a professor at Vermont now. And then a student of mine names
Danny Karp decided to tackle this problem of pest control. So there’s this terrible pest
on coffee, the coffee berry borer, this little tiny
3 millimeter long beetle that bores in and sets
up shop and eats up the bean that we would
otherwise be enjoying. And so to run a pest
control experiment, you go out all over the
countryside setting up these exclosures that prevent– say, in our case, we were
looking at birds and bats. And how effective are they
at preventing the pests from devouring the crop? And so you can see up
there in the upper left. They’re all at different
distances from forests. So these are all close
to that patch of forest. In some, we let the birds
in, but not the bats in. In others, we let bats in to
feed on whatever they could, but not the birds. In others, we excluded both. And finally, we had a control
that let both types of organism in. And this meant having
a bunch of people zooming around the
countryside in the dark early in the morning,
and then, in the evening, raise and lower these
nets appropriately so that the right treatment is
going on for months at a time, and then comparing yield and
degree of infestation, so another major undertaking. And we found in the end
that birds contributed to reducing infestation
if you were in near forest by about 50%, which also
translated differently on different farms, but into
a massive economic boost. By contrast, we found that
bats were really complicated. Sometimes they ate
up the berry borer. Other times, they were
eating other things. And it just is a reminder
of all the mystery in life and how blunt our approaches are
right now to trying to value it and a reminder of
how humble we need to be in thinking about the
many intimate connections between people and nature. But that study involved
about 250 bird species and about 70 bat
species that live in around these coffee farms. So there have been
tons of these studies. And the question now
over the past decade or so is, how do you go
from studies like this to policy and finance? How do you really
make a difference? Before I answer or try
to answer that question, I’m going to dive into
another realm of research just to give you another
taste of what’s going on in this broad agenda. And that is to think
about where we live today and how we’ve basically
entered the urban century. And humanity is becoming more
and more an urban species, so taking away from the beauty
of the tropics and the farming countryside and now
thinking about the world’s massive cities that
more and more of us live in and about the
mental health issues. There are a lot of
issues living in cities. And one that’s not gotten
very much attention, and yet is more and more on
the radar, is mental health. So city living is involved
with or associated with a 20% increase in anxiety
related disorders, a 40% increase in mood, mostly
depressive related disorders, compared to people living
in countryside situations. This made headlines
a few years ago with the paper that came out
in Nature by a German group in Mannheim, Heidelberg looking
at how different the behavior of the mind in responding
to stresses among people who either grew up in
different situations, in more countryside
versus huge cities, looking at the amygdala
that really gets set back in the early
ages of child development. Or you can also tell kind
of where people live today with parts of the brain
that remain plastic as we go through life and adjust
to different surroundings. So a student of mine
working together with a bunch of
people in psychology– I’m just going to give
you a taste of one of many experiments underway– decided to look at this. I was afraid he was
going to be with me– I liked him a lot–
but for 100 years. Because it seemed so
complicated to work out the impact of, say, nature
experience on mental health. He decided, if you’ve been
to Stanford, to get people to come into the
psychology department, take a bunch of tests. So here’s sort of the protocol. They’re all urban
people who’ve all arrived in kind of a bit
of a panic under stress. Because there’s
never any parking. And it’s hard to
find the building. Then they had to go into
this lab, take these tests. Everybody was equally
stressed out at the beginning. And then they were
randomly assigned to take this shuttle bus
and drive 10 minutes, or like 8 minutes,
either to El Camino, if you guys know the place,
and take a 50 minute walk, 5-0, 50 minute walk along El Camino. It’s not a terrible street when
you think about the world’s massive cities. But it’s a big urban street. Or take this nicer
walk 8 minutes away in the other direction
around kind of under some oak trees and stuff. And it was incredible to
see what a difference came of the two groups. So there were different tests. There were many
tests, as you guys know, developed in
psychology and played with for many decades now. So they’re well understood. So here’s one type of test,
just answering these little math questions. You’ve got to answer them
quickly, get them right, and then memorize
the number that’s flashed at you between
the math problems. So true or false? [INAUDIBLE] Letter, remember that letter. True or false? Remember the letter. True or false? You got to wake up. Remember the letter. True or false? Remember the letter. And this can go on and on. And the question was, OK,
would the groups be different? They’re basically the
same at the beginning, no statistical difference. And look after. This is the difference
in the number of letters remembered
after they’ve taken the walk as compared to before. And you see at least we
didn’t make life way worse for the urban people. They did a lousy job before,
and they still did a lousy job after their walk. But the nature people
went popping up and could remember
about 11 more letters than those who had
that urban walk. So it’s just pretty eye
opening, things like this. Another type of test
involved just asking people how they felt. And it’s in
the realm of rumination, something we all do, this sort
of repetitive negative thoughts about oneself like saying,
dang it, why did I– kicking yourself for
making some silly decision or doing something you regret
months, even years later. And that’s what you look
like when you’re doing it. And here, too, people
came in everybody the same at the beginning. But after the walk, the people
that walked in nature, when asking to respond to
these types of questions and say how they felt– I spend a great deal
of time thinking back over my embarrassing or
disappointing moments. The nature walkers just
kind of let go of it all. The urban walkers were
still ruminating, at least a pretty dramatic
difference there. And a final type of
test that we engaged in involved brain scanning
before and after the walk to look at which parts of the
brain really get activated. And interestingly,
relating this to rumination and to the risk of
onset of depression, there’s one part of the
brain in particular, the subgenual prefrontal
cortex, that gets activated. Its activation is a risk
factor basically in depression. And what we found
was that, again, luckily we didn’t hurt anybody
walking on that El Camino. But the nature people
had a much lower level of activation of that
part of the brain after just a 50 minute walk. So all of this taken together– there were many
other tests done– showed as a result it seemed of
nature experience an increase in working memory, and
in mood improvement, a reduction of anxiety
and tendency to ruminate. And there have been a lot
of studies, not thousands really as in the
other case, but maybe hundreds over the past decade. We have a new article
coming out actually soon. If you happen to be interested,
feel free to email me. And I can send you a
copy, hopefully soon, of the proof kind of
reviewing this and showing how we would make a model that
actually allowed you to predict the impacts of some types
of nature experience as complex as they are
on cognitive functioning and emotional
well-being– a big subject among educators today when you
look at how many schools are situated in places
with basically no green space around them and
how many workplaces as well. So how do you go, though,
from these initial studies to making a meaningful impact? And that’s what I
want to dive into now. And this is where everybody is
more than welcome to jump in. So the idea in systematizing
a universal approach is to start developing a
common language and basically a suite of models that are
based on evidence, obviously, on good science. And in many realms, we
have enough evidence. I’d say this is just
an emerging realm. And it’s sort of in
a light gray color. But in many realms,
we know a lot about the role of
elements of nature, whether it’s wetlands
or big forests or just small individual
trees and things contributing to coastal protection, to
cooling cities that otherwise heat up something like 7 degrees
Celsius more than surrounding areas in cities, or to food
production via pollination pest control, and other
benefits, flood control provided by wetlands,
upland forests, and so on. So there are many,
many benefits where we can account for
the role of nature in helping to deliver
or secure the supply. And we’re developing
models of all of these and integrating them into an
open source free sort of data and modeling software platform. And now, we’ve been developing
it for about seven years or so. And the models
have been taken up to some degree in
most countries. So people, at least
grad students, are playing around with
them in a lot of countries. And at the other
extreme, in some places they’re being used to
drive massive changes in policy and finance. And that’s what
I’ll showcase now. And we could then
be thinking together about how to improve
the science and bolster all this side of
it, but also how we can really mainstream
and scale up the efforts that we see underway. So we’ve been working as a
partnership all over the world. And we have two main kind
of decision contexts. One is in development
planning by governments, by development banks that
invest hundreds of billions to trillions of dollars
in infrastructure and other development plans. A new area for us is in
sustainable livable cities and developing the software. We have about eight models now
in sort of a beta testing phase accounting for the role
of nature in cities. And then these kind
of underpin it all– coastal climate resilience,
whether in cities or across countries,
securing fresh water, like New York City did. And then we’re working a
bit in the private sector, not so much. And we can talk about why later. We’re just getting way
less traction there than with more public
oriented institutions. I’m going to give you examples
from Latin America and China. So in Latin America,
the example I’ll give involves basically replicating
what happened in New York. And cities waking
up to scarcity, as we saw in San Paolo or in
Cape Town recently and actually in many less talked about
but equally severe crises, with the growth of cities
and with climate impacts and with just inadequate
infrastructure, water security is just a dramatic problem
in many, many places. And water often comes
from kind of world apart from urban residents
and other downstream users. So here in the Andes, a
Quechua-speaking person hundreds of kilometers away from
industry, from urban residents, from big agricultural businesses
and cooperatives or hydropower producers downstream, and yet
they’re intimately connected. And how can we, through
institutional change, drive investments that
yield that win-win-win type of situation that we want, the
green growth type of pathway? So the software
that we’ve developed is oriented around addressing
the questions that water utilities or other water
users downstream would have, such as, well, which
activities should we invest in up in these
faraway watersheds to achieve greater
water security? Should it be protecting
forest, like here, or replanting forest in areas
that have been deforested. Or just fencing livestock away
from open streams and rivers would have a major benefit. You know, where do you do what? And then given how vast
these watersheds are, you can imagine across the
whole spine of the Andes and feeding cities down
in the valley areas below, where do you make
your investment? And how do you
inform your decisions so you’re being at least
slightly strategic? So the software will identify
with a simple digital elevation model, you know, let
you delimit watersheds. And these are all these
watersheds feeding cities in the Cauca Valley of Colombia,
where a lot of the innovation first occurred bringing the New
York model to South America. And let’s just take
this city up here. Now, here’s that city. And here’s its
watershed on the side. This is the uplands. And you can see the software. It’s just a simple set of
models letting you determine what portfolio of investments
would achieve a given improvement in water quality. So– protecting forest up at
the top near the ridge line right up here, reforesting
in some key places that have been badly
deforested and where there is a lot of potential
runoff from farms, adding forests to some
pastures, fencing, and adding a lot of
understory vegetation, enriching areas where
there is a lot of livestock near open waterways. So you map out a lot of
social and other data layers– the cost of land,
and land transitions, and things like that– and get your portfolio of
investments that tell you then what improvement in water
quality you might expect under different budget levels,
different interventions on the part of the
water utility, say. And so these actually
have sprung up now in more than 40 cities,
including most of the capital cities in Latin America. And at one level, it’s
very exciting and promising to see that in a
matter of 10 years there’s been widespread uptake. At another level, they seem
to sort of be stalling out. There were just 15
more added in Colombia. So I don’t know. It’s hard to say which part
of the curve we’re on here. But there is a worry for
anybody in political science or governance or
other dimensions that the initial wave
has kind of crested. And how can we keep
spreading this? What are the barriers? And how can we lift them
to advancing this approach elsewhere? But so far, the monitoring
shows a real payoff even though you expect
some of the impacts to take years to
manifest themselves. Monitoring, so far, shows
a payoff on both the social and the biophysical goals. So that’s what’s
happening there. It’s all spreading
into Africa a bit, where we’re working in Kenya
around Nairobi and across parts of Asia, Southeast Asia
and certainly in China. And now, I’ll turn to China and
give you the last and perhaps most interesting case
in many dimensions. So everybody’s
aware, I’m sure, of the environmental
devastation in China. Looking back over
the last century in particular,
with the incredibly rapid just historic economic
growth and alleviation of poverty has come just
extreme levels of crisis in terms of flooding,
air and water quality, and loss
of biodiversity, decline even of the most
iconic species like the panda. And the president,
now Xi Jinping, is advancing a
vision of developing an ecological civilization
for the 21st century. And his slogan gets
translated different ways, but clear waters and lush
mountains are gold and silver. We will not trade them
for gold or silver is one of the ways of
putting this vision out. And how could China
possibly turn around? You might be wondering
and skeptical of advances really being
made toward this dream. But it’s incredible
to see how pragmatic and how determined
the leaders are in making this change for
many national security reasons as well as kind of less maybe
critical types of reasons, but asking very
specifically, well, OK, where and how much
should we protect? Tell us, and we’ll go at it. How can we secure nature
and human livelihoods at the same time? What are the options
in different areas, particularly ecologically
sensitive regions of the country? And finally, how can we move
beyond performance metrics like gross domestic product
to inform whether policies are really helping us
or actually just hiding all the damages like GDP does? So getting into
this a little bit, China’s gone further
than any other country in setting up a system of
natural capital accounts and developing with data that
get better and better almost month by month showing exactly
where all types of food are produced. And China produces
I think more types of food, especially vegetables,
than any other place. Showing you know exactly where
the carbon is sequestered or exactly which ecosystems
are crucial for reducing sand and dust storm risk, or also
crucial for augmenting that risk if they’re not
met well-managed, mostly arid areas where there’s
production of cashmere and goat grazing and things like that– What are those units? This is 10 to 12 tons. There we’re looking at– I don’t know why
I have per capita. For some reason,
we’ve weighted it by the number of
people involved there. And I don’t remember
why here exactly. And I think I might
have swapped in– the graphs will look
the same either way. What we wanted didn’t
note was how important these different services are. And we were not
asked to monetize the production of the
service, but instead to indicate how many people
are affected by sand and dust storms and how many people
could benefit from investing in improved grazing and other
land management practices in the areas where that
sand and dust originate. And that’s where the weighting
by population came in. And thanks for raising that. It’s not a factor as I’m
presenting it right here. But it comes into the
valuation when you then ask where should we invest. This here, again, I think it’s– Even without per
capitas though, they were a trillion tons
per square kilometer. Multiplied by capita. Yeah, that’s the answer. So I’m sorry. I don’t have the raw number
of the potential export from the source areas. Here, it’s multiplied by the
number of people downwind in the northeastern
cities that experience the air pollution that results. So I’m happy to show you this. A paper came out
in Science in 2016. And we could get
into it in depth. And I just have a
little mistake here in showing the per capita part. But the idea, same
thing here, is with water supply for hydropower
and irrigation and supply to cities. Which parts of the
country are most vital for holding the water? And then finally on
the biodiversity front, we’ve mapped out where
biodiversity is located and where new reserves
will be going in as the government commits
to the major improvements in their biodiversity
conservation efforts. So what we found in developing
these accounts first off is that over a 10 year
period from 2000 to 2010 most of the services
improved in supply. And that was thanks to major
investments through the Sloping Land Conversion Program made
in restoring ecosystems. And it has led to
zoning the country around these different
benefits, targeting places where the payoff of an
investment would be highest, helping the greatest
number of people at sort of the lowest cost. So initially, it was
zoned at this level. We developed a bunch
of demonstrations showing how, for example,
Beijing gets over half of its water supply
from just north of the city in the
[INAUDIBLE] watershed area, how improved agricultural
practices in that area would help increase
both the quantity and the quality of
water going to the city. Another major demonstration
using these approaches– concerning the South-to-North
Water Transfer Project, this massive transfer of water
that’s happening from three places. This is the middle fork,
got going a few years ago. And improving water
supply down here in the south of
Shanxi province, what kinds of investments
in improving ecosystems would even make this
massive project that has a lot of objections to
it feasible and sustainable? And then finally, just the past
month we’ve published a report on transforming agriculture
in this demonstration tropical area that’s
been heavily deforested, Hainan Island, mostly
for rubber production and other crops, how to
improve agricultural practices to secure ecosystems
services as well as production of the commodity. And I’d be happy to
share any of this. I’m not going to go
into detail on it, but the idea in this case, this
is a one time sort of thing with three source areas. But in this case,
the policy is going to extend across the country
of investing in transforming agricultural practices and same
with this watershed investment. And so as a result
of all this, now the country has zoned
about 49% of the land for improving ecosystems,
their condition, and supply of services. So in any region,
every square meter is assigned a certain
land category. There are four categories. One’s agricultural. One’s sort of urban or town. One’s sort of industrial. And then there’s this
natural capital category. And they’re all
mapped out precisely. And about 200 million
people are now being paid to restore ecosystems
in those areas that are mapped out for natural capital. And we do also a lot of work
to see whether the social goals are being met, interviewing
people, often elderly living in Western, more
remote parts of China while their kids are
working in factories in more urban or industrial places. And getting to the
end here, I just will show one more
dimension of this kind of in the financial side, trying
to transform to what they’re calling a green
financial system where downstream or downwind
beneficiaries, mostly in cities and in the
wealthy coastal provinces, are paying inland
areas and populations to change their livelihoods,
ideally improving both. Working in these key cities,
China’s sort of top cities– and Lishui being the place
where Xi Jinping makes his main announcements over the
these environmental policies. And finally, a major
guide in all of this is something where
we’d love to team up. It’s a recent development
called for in 2014, a new metric, gross
ecosystem product. And the idea is
to quantify, just like we do for the
economy in calculating gross domestic product,
the total value of goods and services produced
by ecosystems. So here if we think about
GDP and then consider GEP, they’re kind of parallel
systems of accounts where you have through
your capital stock and a suite of goods and
services that comes from it. Similarly, in ecosystems–
less well known, some overlap that
we can account for and really trying to demonstrate
the utility of a metric like this in China. And then there are many
development banks actually that want to use something
similar in guiding investments in country development. So it involves collecting
data from all over, much of it remotely sensed from
satellites and things. Also, in China there’s about
140,000 ground truthing sites. So there’s a very
systematic approach to checking what’s happening
and changing on the ground, analyzing the data, and then
running the invest models or new models as we
keep building that up to estimate the production and
value of goods and services that come from ecosystems. And then using this
information in three contexts, one is just to
recognize explicitly the contribution of systems
to the economy and society in a way that’s
ignored in most places when we think about
our finance and policy. Second, to guide
financial compensation among regions, such as in
the water security for cities arena, but in many others
in thinking about hydropower production, like in
Costa Rica, thinking about air pollution of sand and
dust, and many other contexts. And then finally, evaluating
whether these policies and the people
meant to implement them are performing over
time and adjusting as we go. So that’s a major
innovation that’s being tested now at
different levels in China on a sort of provisional
demonstration basis. And I would love to sort
of talk if anybody wants to follow up later on this. Top people from government,
the guy heading up the National Development
and Reform Commission Department of
Development Planning, a major part of the government,
and this guy heading up basically the equivalent
of the finance ministry– coming to work out how to
develop this sort of system of green finance and
very open to input from experts worldwide. And then coming to
the very end here, I just want to mention
I’m sure everybody’s read and possibly knows a ton about
the Belt and Road Initiative, China’s investments across the
world in many other countries. They’re also investing in
trying to help universalize this type of approach
among receiving countries that now number way over
100 I think in Latin America and certainly across the Ancient
Silk Road and possibly Maritime Silk Road. So we’ve been running
these trainings. This was our first. And we have a second one
planned that we have filled up overnight with literally a sort
of 48 hour registration period. And we get to the maximum
we can possibly handle. But just bring this up to
spark comments or suggestions on how to accelerate
when we get back to Henry Kendall
and his reflections on how summers are becoming
like a long weekend and how we’ve got
to slow and reverse the rate of planetary
destruction. However imperfect some of
these elements of science and understanding
are today, we’ve got to act a lot more quickly
than we are at present. How do we accelerate
across the world? So there are a lot of
development banks adopting these approaches at
one level or another. And yeah, the bottom line
is we don’t have much time. We have a lot of
inspiration to look to, though, and a lot of eager
open-minded and ready to run leaders in scaling institutions
with whom we could engage. So I’m excited about engaging
a lot further with them and with you at any level. So thank you very much
for your kind attention. And I look forward
to following up. [APPLAUSE] [INAUDIBLE] glad
to answer questions or to take comments on things
that maybe she didn’t cover or those she covered,
very fascinating areas of evaluating
natural [INAUDIBLE].. Thank you. So there are a couple
of microphones. Obviously, feel free to
go if you need to go. And if you want
to be brave and be the first to make a little
comment or pose a question, please just raise your hand. Dan. This was very
educational for me. OK. I think it’s working now. Yeah. And it’s impressive,
because of its global scope. But naturally, like most
people, I try to think locally. Could you comment at all
about the possibilities of implementing this
approach in this country? OK. Yeah. That’s a harder one. And I’ve been working mostly
overseas to keep my spirit up. [LAUGHTER] But at one level, it’s
devastating to see how quickly the forests are
dying back in California. There’s been a lot of remote
sensing looking at likelihood of die-off in the Sierra
Nevada where most of our forest is concentrated. And it’s extremely high. And a lot of that area seems
likely to go up in flames. Part of the reason I’m
giving you this one example to show how innovative,
though, some of the solutions are that are coming online. Part of the reason for that, as
everyone here probably knows, is this fire suppression
over 200 or more years for various reasons. And the question now is,
how could we possibly kind of restore what
might have been a more natural and certainly much
less likely to burn condition to the forests? If you look at photographs
from 100, 150 years ago, the forest is way
thinner than it is today. And so what’s happening,
there’s this really interesting public-private
investment vehicle that’s developing called a
forest resilience bond being developed by some people from
Berkeley’s business school together with a lot of
scientists in the Bay Area at Stanford and elsewhere that
involves quantifying fire risk and identifying those
areas that are most prone. This was written up, actually,
a few weeks ago in The Wall Street Journal. One of my grad students is
doing the quantification of fire risk using some
interesting remote sensing in AI. And then the investors
are initially a bunch of foundations, kind of
public and private foundations, but also California’s major
pension fund and counties themselves that are seeing their
own life at stake investing in management to reduce fire
risk as quickly as possible and basically cut down a
lot of trees, but in a way that will maintain all
the other benefits that we want to have from forest. So it’s an example of an
approach that’s coming online. There’s also a lot happening on
the coastal climate resilience front around the US with the
RESTORE Act following the BP, you know, big oil spill from a
few years back, huge investment in restoration of
coastal systems that help maintain resilience to sea
level rise and storm surges. So there are some things
going on, obviously, but not at scale. And until we get a price on
carbon and actual improvement in policies as opposed
to taking them all apart, it’s going to be really
hard in this country. And we don’t have
much legitimacy on the international
stage when it comes to enforcing what we have
in the way of the Paris Climate Agreement. And like this week,
all these negotiations are going on concerning
pollutants of different sorts around the world. This whole new effort called
the Intergovernmental Panel basically of biodiversity
and ecosystem services just launched today. You might have seen
in the news an analog of the IPCC for Climate. So a lot is happening globally. And I’m hoping
that the US will be able to deliver sometime soon. Do you see any evidence
of these concepts taking root in the thinking
of actual policymakers and actually being employed
in the analysis used by our policymaking
institutions? Yeah. So there are many
countries, actually, that are taking up
these approaches. The fact that China
has taken them up and that Latin America,
led in part by Costa Rica and in part much more broadly by
the Inter-American Development Bank, has helped
legitimize the approaches in quite contrasting cultural
and political contexts. So there’s a lot
of capacity being built among the
governments in developing these natural capital
accounts and developing the technical ability to project
change in service provision under different
scenarios of development. So the banks with
their public mission are starting to take this up. We’re developing
a natural capital index for the World Bank. We were just invited to do
that earlier this year in 2019. So we’re not very far along yet,
and we’d love to interact more. We’re going to form kind of
international working groups on the different metrics
like that and approaches, so that we further
socialize and legitimize and improve them over time. It took a long time
in the case of GDP, for example, to settle on
how to run the accounting and use GDP and policy and such. So there is a lot going on and
a lot of potential to scale up I think very rapidly. And much of the expertise
is coming from the US. So there is a major role to
play here in this country even as we’re limited
politically in what applications we can make. Although it’s not at all
political at many levels. This is, obviously,
about basic survival. Thanks. So one of the things
I really thought was interesting about
the invest framework was how it allowed
policymakers to really compare across different
decisions that they could make across different sectors
and then compare them sort of on a consistent valuation base. My question was
looking at the sort of physical and
technological interactions that those sectors might
have and how that’s treated in your underlying modeling– for example, if you had
an intervention that was in the farming
area– how might that be taken into account if
it affects another sector, like air pollution, for example? And how would you think about
that in your modeling approach? You’ve asked a
really good question. We set out to make
the models modular, so that we could not be thinking
about the complexity of all those interactions given
how complex each of subfield is unto itself. But the aim is to
integrate ever more. And we are beginning
to integrate in some arenas such
as in likely impacts on trade resulting
from major shifts in agricultural practices,
and level of production, and things like that. But I’d say, for the
most part, the models are still not very connected. And that, in a way,
is an asset given the state of the science
and knowledge of the more complex interactions. But it also is a
shortcoming when thinking too far into the
future about the implications of alternative policy choices. So right now, the
policy choices tend to be framed around
a 20-year time horizon with the
development banks, for example, looking at
how a country invests in whether new dams, or road
and other transportation infrastructure, or
a mine, or expanding a port, or urban corridors,
things like that. And I’d say, as a
first cut, the models are much better than nothing. But we all hope to improve these
models in multiple dimensions and welcome any kind of
collaboration in doing so. We have a question
way in the back. Great. Hi. I was curious. I appreciated your presentation. And I appreciate your
entire presentation, but was wondering about
the environmental metric that you had to complement GDP. As policymakers are
thinking about this, I was curious to
what extent this overlaps with some of the– I guess I know Bhutan
is leading this and some other countries
seem to be thinking about it, with the whole idea of
well-being being at the center? I think it’s like gross national
happiness that they refer to. And I was wondering if
that sort of approach to– and as I understand,
what they talk about is somewhat
similar to the idea that you’re talking about of
that being a complement to GDP and the focus of
development should be on the well-being of people
or, in what you’re describing, the well-being of
the environment. And I was curious if you see
those two as being completely overlapping. Are they sort of
somewhat overlapping like a Venn diagram? Are they like the focus
on the environment and the focus on the well-being
of people from a policymaker standpoint? You’ve raised a
really good question. People have been wanting to
green GDP for a long time. And there have been tons
of sustainability related metrics proposed over
the past, you know, maybe 30 or more years. And the one GNH, Gross
National Happiness, from Bhutan got a lot of attention. There are a bunch of others
that are important to note. There’s so many, in fact, we’re
doing a review of all of them right now. And some are quite
overlapping in relying on a system of accounting for
the natural capital stock. And then others
are quite removed and take different
sorts of approaches. None of them has really been
applied and demonstrated at scale. So the unique thing in the
case of gross ecosystem product being developed and
applied in China is that it is
already influencing the investment of basically
billions of dollars. And you know, so far, its use
has been deemed a success. There are definitely worries
about its behavior over time, especially when the management
in a given province or county can’t control exactly how
ecosystems evolve through time and deliver benefits
given that there are such global or otherwise distant
factors driving ecosystem change in any given
part of the planet. So there are a lot of
things I think still to work out on this new
system being developed. But as everybody
here well knows, the mass of data available
is really helpful in tracking ecosystem change. And China is setting up
basically a remote sensing sort of data repository for– so far, this was written up
in Nature about a year ago if you want to look it up,
or I could help you find it– all Belt and Road
Initiative countries to help provide a basis
for building capacity to determine which parts of
these recipient countries of Chinese investment are
most crucial to protect. So anyway, this data
platform is coming online. The use of AI and
other analytics is really accelerating. And we’ve never
had as clear a way of tracking ecosystem condition
and change as we have today. And that might also
help stimulate youth. But in the case of GEP,
the information coming out fits right into policy in China. In the case of Costa
Rica, it’s similar. We’re working with
the central bank. And the metrics are designed out
of the same system of accounts to fit right into
policy decisions. And then finally, with the
Inter-American Development Bank– the same idea
and with the World Bank on the natural capital index. The idea is to make sure
these things get used. So the design involves the
users from the very beginning. And that might help assure some
impact, whereas in the past some of these things like
gross national happiness haven’t really been used
or have been abandoned. Thank you. OK. I think at this
stage, Gretchen– I’m happy to wait down
here and say hi to anyone. We’re going to move to the
reception on the 9th floor of the Green building. That’s the big, tall building. Everyone is welcome. And Gretchen will be there to
continue this conversation, as I realize there’s a lot
of questions still to come. Maybe those can be
made [INAUDIBLE].. OK, fantastic. [INAUDIBLE] Well, thank you very much
for your kind attention. [APPLAUSE]

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