Susan Glasser and Peter Baker are veteran political journalists who closely covered the presidency of Donald Trump, he as the New York Times chief White House correspondent, she as a…
Economic prosperity and conserving the environment is often seen as being in conflict — to get the former, you have to sacrifice the latter. But there’s a growing body of research that suggests when we don’t protect nature, short term economic gains may result in long term losses. In his new book, leading British environmentalist Tony Juniper says that’s because the things nature provides us, that we tend to think of as free, has a monetary value that can be measured. And it’s time for companies and governments to start accounting for it when doing business. For this month’s Environmental Outlook, Diane talks with Tony Juniper about his new book, “What Has Nature Ever Done for Us? How Money Really Does Grow on Trees.”
- Tony Juniper Author of "What Has Nature Ever Done For Us?: How Money Really Does Grow On Trees." He is the sustainability adviser to Prince Charles, fellow at the University of Cambridge Program for Sustainability Leadership and the former director of Friends of the Earth.
Read An Excerpt
Excerpted from “What Has Nature Ever Done for Us?: How Money Really Does Grow On Trees” by Tony Juniper. Copyright © 2013 Tony Juniper. Reprinted with permission of Profile Books Ltd. All rights reserved.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Britain's Tony Juniper is one of the world's leading environmentalists. He ran the organization Friends of the Earth and is the sustainability advisor to Prince Charles.
MS. DIANE REHMIn his latest book, Juniper describes the unexpected ways nature is interconnected and why preserving this balance is not just important for the health of the earth, but for the bottom line. For this month's Environmental Outlook, Tony Juniper joins us from the studios of KUOW in Seattle to talk about his new book "What Has Nature Ever Done For Us? How Money Really Does Grow On Trees."
MS. DIANE REHMAnd throughout the hour, you're invited to be part of the program. Give us a call, 800-433-8850. Send us an email to email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. It's good to have you with us, Tony.
MR. TONY JUNIPERIt's a great pleasure to be here, Diane.
REHMI must say the title of your book is really sort of intriguing. You wanted to catch people's -- not only their eyes, but their minds.
JUNIPERWell, that's the idea and hopefully to enable people to see a slightly different way of looking at how we regard nature. I've been involved with different efforts to protect the natural environment getting on for 30 years and I have to say, even if we've seen some considerable progress as we've gone along, but still, if you look at the big trends of species loss, of climate change, of resource depletion, then we're still going in the wrong way.
JUNIPERAnd it seems to me that the main reason why we persist with this quite destructive behavior is because we've fallen victim to a really quite fundamental misconception and it goes along the lines of seeing a choice between economy and ecology.
JUNIPERAnd in order to grow the economy, we have to impact on nature and that is regarded quite widely in politics and in business as the price of progress. This is the kind of language that we use.
JUNIPERWhat I've tried to do in the new book, "What Has Nature Ever Done For Us?" is to just unearth some of the recent economics and ecological research that's been attempting to put some kind of dollar, monetary values on different elements of the natural environment and to show, through that, that actually this is a false choice.
JUNIPERThe idea that there's a tension between economy and ecology, this is a false choice and it's a massive false choice and the longer we persist with it the greater will be the risks we will pose for future economic development.
JUNIPERAnd so my new book is not really making the case for the environment, it is doing that. It's really making the case for the economy and if we want to have continued economic development into the future, reduce poverty, to have human welfare underpinned for centuries ahead then we have to protect these economically-valuable services being provided by the natural world.
JUNIPERSo for example, some of the research looking at the value of pollinating insects to the economy, these are the bees, the butterflies, the wasps and the beetles that go about their business moving pollen between flowers as a byproduct of their lifecycle.
JUNIPERAnd as they do that, they're enabling ecosystems to function, but also for most of our crop plants to be able to reproduce and to produce food like strawberries and carrots and blueberries and all these things that we take so much for granted are actually being produced, in part, through the work of these insects.
JUNIPERAnd one piece of research tried to put a number on this and came to the conclusion it's worth about $190 billion per year. So you start to take away the bees and the wasps...
JUNIPER...and these are the kinds of costs that are being incurred.
REHMBut you know what's extraordinary is that certainly for centuries, people understood the value of nature.
REHMPeople understood what ecology meant to human beings. Where did we get off track?
JUNIPERI think it's a failure in mainstream economics that we're seeing and the idea that nature is worthless or is providing free services. In the economic jargon this is a so-called externality whereby the benefits of a particular transaction, for example, somebody buying a car, they're very happy to get the car.
JUNIPERThey've got mobility. The car company is very happy to have sold the car and profit has been made. Nobody is counting the damage being caused to people's health through the emissions coming from the vehicle's exhaust or through the carbon dioxide that's helping to change the climate.
JUNIPERThat's the so-called externality and you can see these right across the way in which we do modern economics. Tropical rainforest being cleared, you can count the value of the timber in the market or you can count the value of the products you can grow on the soil where the trees used to be.
JUNIPERNobody is counting the fact that billions of tons of carbon is being released into the atmosphere or that the water cycle is being interrupted or that soil is being washed into the ocean. All of these things are leading to economic losses, but nobody is counting them and so that's a failure of economics.
JUNIPERAnd in the book, it's a very optimistic book actually. I draw attention to these issues because they need to have attention drawn to them, but the book is replete with examples of where countries and companies and communities are beginning to see the value and to capture it in ways that are making real economic gains for them.
REHMSo you mention the deforestation of the rainforest for example, it seems that the value, the economic value is assessed only after they're gone. Then it is. We come to realize what we've lost...
REHM...but we don’t anticipate that before the planning of the fields.
JUNIPERIndeed. And the book is really an attempt to draw attention as well to some of the implications of these things before they happen and hopefully to encourage behavior to change before we see the worst effects of some of this.
JUNIPEROne story I have, which I think is quite a dramatic story in the sense of explaining some of the things that I'm getting at, is the story of how in parts of Southwestern China, the very heavy use of pesticides led to not only the destruction of the pests that were damaging fruit in orchards, but also killed the pollinating insects.
JUNIPERAnd now in that part of the world, in the spring you find entire villages of fruit farmers climbing in the branches of the apple and pear trees with feathered dusters moving pollen between the blossoms by hand because the bees are no longer doing the work.
JUNIPERBut if you start to scale up that kind of thing to wider regions, then there's real issues here for food security that might be in the offing if we continue to use some of the very nasty pesticides that are in use at the moment, including some of the neonicotinoids which are raising real concerns across Europe right now, not only in terms of the damage being done to bee populations, but also in the aquatic environment and also potentially in soils.
JUNIPERAnd so that kind of invisible green infrastructure, if you will, comprised of insects, of soil fertility, of the work being done by plants capturing and releasing water, all of this stuff as it's degraded. It does have economic consequences. And hopefully what we can do through the thinking that I'm trying to get across in the book is to anticipate this economic impact and to avoid it.
REHMAnd moving to this country, you also talk about the example of Hurricane Katrina.
JUNIPERYes, indeed. So this was obviously a devastating storm that came into the Gulf of Mexico in 2005. Less well-known is a second storm that came through the same region in that same month, came ashore about 400 kilometers to the west in Texas, Hurricane Rita, that storm was known as.
JUNIPERBoth of these storms were category five hurricanes, both of them with enormous destructive power, but the damage to property and to people was very different between these two storms. Admittedly, Rita came ashore in a less populated area, but the devastation wrought by Katrina was really in large part exacerbated by the damage to the coastal wetlands around Louisiana that permitted the storm to run into the land pretty much unabated.
JUNIPERWhereas, Rita came ashore across very healthy wetlands and the power of the tidal surge that went in front of it was much diminished by the time it reached inhabited areas. And I've marshaled lots of evidence from across the world in the book to show how this pattern is repeated in many different parts with coastal mangrove forests and coral reefs and other coastal wetlands providing an insurance policy against these kinds of extreme events.
JUNIPERAnd then, making the case for the economic rationale in protecting these areas, in order that they can do this job for us much more cheaply than can be done with concrete sea defenses and the great virtue of those kinds of coastal systems is that they adapt to sea level rise, to changing conditions in the ocean without anyone having to pour any concrete or invest billions in expensive engineering.
JUNIPERAnd the tale of Hurricane Katrina, I think ,is a really powerful one in setting out the value, the hidden value of these kinds of coastal systems. Well, of course, that value is only hidden until you see the effects of something like those kinds of storms when, in fact, you realize that had those systems been protected then there would have been more protection for the city.
REHMTony Juniper, he is the advisor to Prince Charles on nature, on the ecology, on the environment. His new book is titled "What Has Nature Ever Done For Us?" the subtitle "How Money Really Does Grow On Trees." You seem to believe, Tony, that we as a species have become too separated from the rest of the inhabitants of the world?
JUNIPERIndeed, and the modern economics obviously underlines this disastrous separation where we seem to have not only misunderstood in an economic sense the value of nature, but also have become disconnected in a cultural and philosophical sense.
JUNIPERWhen I think -- you know, if you look at the way in which many of us in Western countries think and compare that to many of the communities that are still living quite close to nature, for example, some of the indigenous communities still living in the tropical rainforests or in the remote regions of the Arctic, they have a very different view of how the world works and obviously see themselves very much more embedded in nature than we are. But if you just think about it for a second, even those of us sitting in a radio studio or in an air-conditioned vehicle, we're breathing oxygen that's been put into the atmosphere mostly by plankton drifting on the surface of the ocean.
JUNIPERMuch of the carbon dioxide we're releasing from our power stations is being absorbed by tropical rainforests and soils. All of the food that we eat is being provided to us through nutrients being recycled by microbes in the soil. None of us are outside nature.
JUNIPERWe're all completely embedded inside it and both in a very practical sense in those ways, but also economically. And that, again, is one of the kind of messages in the book that I try to get across of how this is not something separate from us. It's part of us.
REHMTony Juniper, author of "What Has Nature Ever Done For Us?" He is sustainability advisor to the Prince of Wales and the former head of Friends of the Earth. Short break and right back.
REHMAnd here is the first email for Tony Juniper. He is the author of "What Has Nature Ever Done For Us?: How Money Really Does Grow on Trees." He's sustainability advisor to the Prince of Wales. He's the former head of the organization "Friends of the Earth." Our first email is from Vee who says, "Externality is precisely the word. As long as we see ourselves external to and separate from and above nature, this destructive cycle will continue." And you have a shocking example of this in the story of the vultures in India, Tony.
JUNIPERThis is one of the most dramatic stories that I came across during the course of researching the book. And I've been involved in these discussions for many years and I came across this and I was really quite stunned at the set of connections that emerge. And the vultures in India, these were very common birds until the early 1990s. There were about 40 million of these creatures living across the Indian subcontinent -- three species of vulture.
JUNIPERIn the early 1990s, they went into freefall decline. And by the early 2000s had pretty much gone extinct, down to a few tens of thousands of birds of each of these three species. This meant that there was about 12 million tons of meat left in the countryside that wasn't being cleaned up by these animals, as creatures like buffalo and cattle died.
JUNIPERAnd the reason the vultures disappeared so quickly was the inadvertent impacts of a drug called diclofenac being used in veterinary medicine. Very good for treating various ailments in buffalo and cattle, lethal to vultures. And nobody realized this until it was in widespread use. So if an animal was injected with this material as part of its medical treatment and then died within a week or so, there would be residues of diclofenac in the flesh of the cow or buffalo.
JUNIPERWhen the animal died, a couple of hundred cultures would descend upon the corpse. They would clean it up in a matter of minutes literally, leaving only bad bones and skin behind, doing a great service to the local communities in getting rid of this health hazard in the form of dead animals. So when the vultures went there was all this meat in the countryside and there was therefore a nutritional windfall, if you will, for other scavengers.
JUNIPERAnd the principle beneficiary of the vultures disappearing was India's wild dog population. The number of wild dogs rocketed by about 7 million animals over a few years. This led to many more dog bites in the countryside as the wild dogs interacted with people. And that led, in turn, to an estimated 50,000 extra deaths from rabbis that wouldn't have occurred had the vultures still been there doing this essential cleaning function.
JUNIPERIf you estimate the cost of the public health impacts plus other costs that came to the Indian economy, including cleaning up of dead animals, then it's believed that between 1993 and 2006 the loss to the Indian economy as a result of the vultures disappearing was in the order of $34 billion.
REHMSo how did they finally figure out what was happening in the chain of events?
JUNIPERSo this was -- it follows many similar stories where you find an impact on nature and there's a big argument breaks out with the manufacturer of the chemical or the origin of the pollution or whatever it would be. Finally it was established that there was a direct connection. And so the diclofenac was phased out, at least in theory. It is still an illegal use in some parts of rural India, it's believed. But there are alternatives on the market and hopefully those overtime will displace the damaging drug.
JUNIPERAnd the vulture population can continue to -- can begin to recover and continue to do so over many years to get back to its former numbers and to do the job it was doing. That will take a long time however. It will take a lot of effort from conservationists, not least in undertaking a captive breeding program to try and get these birds back up again. A long haul undoubtedly.
REHMIt's interesting that you begin your book with the story of William Wells. Who was he and why do you start here?
JUNIPERYes, William Wells. He was a land owner living in the eastern part of England quite near to where I live just outside Cambridge. And in the 1850s he lived next to a very substantial lake called Whittlesey Mere, which was the largest lowland lake in England, would you believe, in that period in the 1850s. In common with much of the other wetland areas of Eastern England in the Victorian period, that lake was drained. And underneath that lake was a vast area of piece and it ran north from Cambridge up to the Eastern England coast in a big bay called the Wash.
JUNIPERA vast body of unrotted plant remains that had been kept wet since the end of the ice age when the sea levels rose, this great body of peat had accumulated over 8,000 years or so. Once it was drained it was very good agricultural soil. And so Whittlesey Mere was drained alongside other bits of those wetlands in the middle Victorian period.
JUNIPERNow William Wells thought this might lead to some quite big changes in the landscape, and so he put in place what's proved to be a very, very dramatic environmental monitoring project. He took a great big piece of metal from the great exhibition in London. He shipped it up to East Anglia. And he put this great big piece of metal through the peat down into the clay beneath and he fixed the piece of metal so that the post was ground level. The top of the post was at ground level in 1850.
JUNIPERIf you go up there today and walk by the post, the post hasn't moved but the land has. It's shrunk and so the top of that post now is about 5 yards above the ground. And that denotes the shrinkage of the land across literally hundreds of square miles of Eastern England caused by the drainage. Now obviously the drainage works has led to food production. Food has been grown there and it's been sold into the market. What nobody was measuring at the time and still are not measuring really was other jobs being done by that soil apart from food production, which are now no longer being done.
JUNIPERAnd in this case, the soil has literally turned into thin air because those unrotted plant remains in the form of peat are very, very rich in carbon. When you take the water away that carbon is exposed to the air. It joins with oxygen and it's turned into carbon dioxide and literally 5 yards of land across hundreds of square miles has turned into thin air. It's gone off into the atmosphere, releasing literally hundreds of millions of tons of carbon dioxide. And so that story I tell because, you know, we're very good at measuring one value of soils, food production. We're very, very bad at measuring some of the others.
JUNIPERFor example, the carbon services being done, the way in which water is being replenished by soils and being infiltrated back into the ground and then replenishing ground water. And then all the incredibly intricate ecological actions going on inside the soils, which have led to all sorts of other benefits to humankind, and not least the invention by tiny organisms living in the ground of antibiotics hundreds of millions of years ago. And to make the point in the book, all of the clinically useful antibiotics we use today in medicine, they're from the same soils that support the rest of the natural ecosystems through these carbon capture services and which are purifying our water.
JUNIPERBut of course, you know, in the modern world, soil we see principally as a receptacle for growing crops and not much else. And again, this is one of those examples where you can unpack all sorts of hidden economic values that are being provided by different natural systems. And again, once you start to put numbers on some of these things you get some truly massive figures.
REHMBut have we changed anything as a result of what William Wells found out?
JUNIPERWell, it's beginning -- not yet but we could do. And so there's different ways in which we could manage soils so that not only are we producing food, but also being able to build up our carbon in the ground. And so the Rodale Institute in the United States, the famous organization has done lots of work on this showing how it's possible to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and pesticides and to produce lots of food at the same time as capturing carbon in the soil.
JUNIPERAnd so this is really a mindset shift whereby if you look at the wider values being provided by different elements of the natural world, we can get so much more value out of the way in which we're managing it. And this is beginning to get across. And, as I say, the book is an optimistic one. It has lots of examples of that.
REHMBut look, if you have pesticides in use which roll off into the ocean, if you have animal feed which rolls off into the ground, if you have chemical companies making huge profits, how do you balance all of that and say it could be a win-win situation for everyone?
JUNIPERYes. So there's a lot of tools out there that we have to be able to reflect and to protect these wider values. And some people fear that when I begin talking about putting a monetary value on nature that somehow, you know, this means that we're going to have a market in fresh air or markets in bees or whatever else. There are market mechanisms that can be helpful in some circumstances.
JUNIPERBut for some of these things, for example the protection of pollinating insects, it's really, you know, down to simple regulation of banning certain classes of chemicals that are doing damage in the countryside and which are leading to the loss of these insects. That is, you know, one of the tools we have in the box. And of course then once you get on this route of governments intervening in order to be able to protect wider values, then you finish up clashing with some of the vested interests, for example those who make the chemicals and who would like to keep them in use.
JUNIPERAnd we have a very good example of that in Europe right now with the neonicotinoid pesticides that many people believe are doing really quite serious damage to the fabric of the natural environment. And the chemical companies, of course, would have us believe that these things are safe and that there's no evidence that they're causing damage. And so when we get into that kind of technical discussion, which perhaps was most -- well, first popularized by Rachel Carson and her description of the effects of DDT.
JUNIPERAnd so these debates come and go. And in the end, you know, it's down to democratically-elected governments in the parts of the world that you and I live taking decisions that hopefully are informed by the best science as well as being informed by the lobbying activities of the particular vested interests who would like to keep the status quo.
REHMBut as advisor to Prince Charles, do you think having the ear of someone as prominent as he is helping you to get your words across to those who matter and do make the decisions?
JUNIPERSo I work across quite a lot of different organizations and projects. One of them is to be helping the Prince of Wales on some of his work. And the reason I'm very pleased to be able to assist him in some small ways is because he has been such an effective and high-profile champion of these causes for literally 40 years. And it's sometimes quite surprising to look back on what he's done over that period.
JUNIPERAnd to remember that his first speech on these subjects was in 1968, would you believe, when he was still a young man. And he's been a consistent champion of these causes, bringing people together, drawing attention to good practices being brought by different organizations, bringing people together to discuss ways in which solutions might be found to problems like deforestation.
REHMBut do you think Britain -- do you think Britain has been any more successful than the United States in trying to make sure these ideas get cross?
JUNIPERI think pretty similar actually. I think both countries have worked in parallel. In fact, I have to say that being in the United States for a couple of weeks and having the opportunity to travel around and see some of this country, I think you've done rather better than we have in protecting areas of wilderness. And just having spent a couple of days in the Olympic National Park I've just been literally blown away by the incredible beauty of nature there. And the fact that it's been protected by the United States authorities to such good effect.
JUNIPERAnd having seen various other places on the travels here, I think you've done much better than we have on that. But I think, you know, both countries have done okay on reducing some of the pollution to air and water that causes health effects. But both countries have got a lot more to do on the big issues, climate change in particular.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." You just mentioned perhaps the most controversial two words, climate change…
REHM...which are being fought against here by a small group of scientists who claim there is no such manmade contribution to climate change. How do you respond to them?
JUNIPERWell, I draw people back to the science and the overwhelming consensus that exists amongst climatologists worldwide. Some of the basic chemistry that's involved, the composition of the atmosphere has changed. It is caused by the combustion of fossil fuels and deforestation. We have the science that shows us that. We know that global average temperatures are rising. We can link that back to the CO2.
JUNIPERIn fact, I have some colleagues back in the United Kingdom who are looking at the reliability of economic models compared to climate change models. And they're finding that the predictive capabilities of what we have been offered by the climatologists is much more accurate than what we've been offered by the economists.
JUNIPERAnd if you look at the financial crisis of 2008, that kind of underlines the point admirably.
REHMExactly. Exactly. We have a great many callers waiting. I'm going to open the phones now. First going to Baton Rouge, La. and to Dean. You're on the air with Tony Juniper. Go right ahead.
DEANGood morning, Diane. (unintelligible) and I thank you so very much for accepting the call.
DEANI live here -- Southern Louisiana there's a lot of water around. In fact, from my front door to one of the little lakes that's down here, I just might be 30' at the most. And so periodically planes fly over spraying for what they call the West Nile mosquito. Okay. It's killed the honeybees and a great number of the wasps. And I don't know how many other insects. But if I get any tomatoes or anything like that like I did year before last, I have to take a little watercolor paint brush and go out and do the pollinating myself.
DEANAnd then off of seven tomato plants I didn't get but a hand -- I mean, a double handful of little tomatoes.
JUNIPERThat's a very sad story. I'm very sorry to hear you're having that kind of experience. In fact, on a smaller scale even where we live in Cambridge here this year, we've had a very poor broad bean harvest. And I think that's in large part down to there being no bees. And the plants didn't get pollinated.
JUNIPERIt's funny you should mention West Nile virus however. There's actually a story in "What Has Nature Ever Done For Us?" where I talk about some research conducted by some American scientists a few years ago who looked into the outbreak of West Nile virus in the United States in 2002 and were trying to understand why the disease broke out in certain places and not in others. And one of the things they discovered was a high correlation between bird diversity and where the disease was absent or where there were fewer infections.
JUNIPERAnd basically what this came down to was the fact that the West Nile virus mosquito, the animal that transmits this disease to people -- it's a nasty disease -- it prefers to feed on birds before it feeds on people. So where you have high diversity and dense bird populations, there's more birds for the mosquito to eat and it bites people less. And so there's an interesting connection there in terms of how the natural environment helps to buffer human communities against disease in certain circumstances. And that's one of them.
JUNIPERAnd it kind of goes alongside the story about the vultures really, about how nature in quite invisible ways protects us from disease. And of course it becomes visible when you start to remove nature. I'm not saying that's an alternative to spraying for the mosquitoes but hopefully there can be some better ways of controlling that insect without having to resort to this kind of mass medication of the environment that does harm to other aspects that we need.
REHMTony Juniper. His new books is titled "What Has Nature Ever Done For Us?: How Money Really Does Grow on Trees." He is the former head of the organization Friends of the Earth. We'll take a short break. More of your calls, comments when we come back. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back. If you've just joined us Tony Juniper is on the line with us from Seattle, Wash., where he is in the studios of KUOW. His newest book is titled, "What Has Nature Ever Done For Us?" He's the former head of the organization Friends Of The Earth. Here's an email from Jonathan, who says, "What is your take on the role of business in the proper evaluation of nature's services?"
JUNIPERWell, I've reached the conclusion that the role of business in all of this has become absolutely central. And in the book I describe some of the steps being taken by leaving organizations who've begun to realize what's at stake here. Companies including Unilever, American company Interface, have stepped up and begun to put in place the kind of strategies that I think are compatible with the long-term business future, not only the future of the environment, but also the business future.
JUNIPERAnd for companies like Unilever, you know, this is a new kind of business context that's emerging because, whereas in the old days you might have seen companies stepping up because they were worried about their brand and the reputation that they had with consumers, there's a new discussion amongst companies now, which is about the future of their businesses in any event, in the sense of being able to continue.
JUNIPERBecause if you look at food companies, like Nestle, Unilever, Cargill, at the end, they have no business without fertile soils, stable climate, fresh water, pollinating insects, and the fact that all this is being provided by ecosystems like forests. And so for them, there's a new emerging awareness that if they don't protect nature, then 20, 30, 40, 50 years out it may be impossible for them to continue to grow or to be able to meet consumer needs and, therefore, the business proposition comes to an end.
JUNIPERSo that is leading to a different kind of dialogue amongst some companies. Some of them are beginning now to look at the wider impact they have in the world, say beyond the financial bottom line, to also be looking at the nature top line, if you will, and to be including the impact and the dependencies they have on natural systems. And some of that's being reported. Puma has been a leading company, the sports good company, one of the first to step out and they publish a so-called environmental profit and loss alongside their financial figures.
JUNIPERAnd there's a group called the B Team, being led by Richard Branson, of the Virgin Group, amongst others, trying to expand this kind of thinking. So there is a lot going on, but the one thing I would say is that unfortunately, the companies who seem to have got this, they're still in the minority.
JUNIPERAnd for me it's a question of now building this up and getting it more widespread.
REHMAll right. To the Ozarks, in Arkansas. Hi there, Faith. Faith?
FAITH…so much. Can you hear me?
REHMYes, I certainly can. Go right ahead.
FAITHI'm in an all-volunteer organization called Save The Ozarks. And we are fighting the fight of our lives against huge utility companies that think carving a 150' swath through pristine forests and over karst, which is a fancy word for porous, soil, and then perpetually spraying herbicides and pesticides to construct 150' tall 300,000 to 800,000 kilovolts through a pristine portion of the Ozark forest to deliver power elsewhere. I mean it's happening all over the United States and it's quite frightening because we're told by all of our politicians that it's someone else's job.
FAITHAnd so this all-volunteer organization has just started and we are going to take it all the way. And I’m just so happy to hear you talk and it gives us a ray of hope because…
FAITH…no one in the Ozarks in Arkansas is listening. And this state is called The Natural State and we have an opportunity to be a pioneer in green. And, instead, we're just so afraid that this coal-burning power is going to be transported through us and not to us. And your comments, please.
REHM…what advice would you give to Faith?
JUNIPERWell, Faith, I wish you every good fortune with that campaign. That sounds like a terrible thing that's about to happen to some very beautiful parts of where you live. I fear that, you know, as we ramp up demand on the Earth's resources we just see this everywhere. And not only in places like the Ozarks, but also in, you know, heavily protected National Parks and different parts of the world where, you know, the quest for oil and gas takes us even into the most remote wilderness.
JUNIPERAnd I fear that we just have to continue fighting this, including at ground level, but also at the level of national government policy. The same things going on in the U.K. right now. Communities beginning to mobilize around the governments push towards a big shale gas bonanza. And I know in the United States you've had some of this already, but in the U.K. it's coming there, too. And I think this is going to be one of those ground-level struggles where people have to get stuck in, in the communities where they live and to take on these big utilities and short-sighted government policy.
JUNIPERAnd one thing I could hopefully offer is, you know, the idea of just being able to trump these people at their own game and to be offering back some economic figures, which actually are better than theirs. And that's one reason why I wrote this book, is because, you know, I've no doubt that the utilities will be talking about, you know, the economic value that will come from building…
JUNIPER…a coal-fired power station and putting cables through beautiful countryside, if we come back and say, actually, your figures are very small compared to the value being provided by nature in different ways. Then I think this just gives us one extra tool in the armory. And, actually, I must just say on that point that, you know, my book is not an attempt to say that economics is more important than nature's beauty, its intrinsic value, the fact that it provides spiritual well-being for humankind, that it provides enormous inspiration for science.
JUNIPERAll of those things are true, alongside the fact that there is also this massive provider of economic benefit. And I think that if we can start to get that dimension into the arguments we're going to wage -- including in the case of your campaign -- that I think maybe we can get further than we might have done before.
REHMGood luck to you, Faith.
JUNIPERVery best of luck with that one.
REHMDo I understand correctly that they have outlawed fracking in France?
JUNIPERI think in France that there was some political decision saying that they weren't going to go ahead with it. I don't know the details of that one, to be honest with you, Diane.
JUNIPERBut in the U.K. I know that our government is hell for leather in favor of it.
REHMAnd are you going to or have you already weighed in on the Keystone pipeline?
JUNIPERYes. I've made one or two remarks about that. This is another disastrous piece of infrastructure that takes us in the opposite direction to which we need to be traveling at this moment. We need to be putting massive resources into renewable energy, into energy efficiency. We have all the technologies we need already invented to be able to make a big leap into the post-fossil fuel age, but we get dragged back, time and time again, by the vested interests and the entrenched positions of governments that want to keep us on the same old path.
JUNIPERIt's disastrously short term. And the short-termism is one of the things that I talk about in the book and why we dwell in these kinds of narrow horizons. And of course, it's down to electoral cycles and the way in which companies report their figures to their shareholders. And breaking out of that is one of the things that we have to do if we're going to be protecting the ability of future generations to enjoy good lives because without nature they can't do it.
REHMAnd on that point, let's go to Tom in Pikesville, Md. You're on the air.
TOMHi, Diane. This has been a terrific conversation. I started with a question, but so many topics have come up that my mind has been spinning trying to figure out what question is most important. I was at business school in the mid '70s. And across the way was the engineering school where Dennis Meadows, who was co-author with his wife…
JUNIPER"Limits To Growth."
TOMYes, exactly -- taught. At the business school at the macro level everybody was chortling that there was no free lunch, but then when you got into the micro level of economics you realized we were feasting on free lunches.
TOMAnd the signals that the pricing system were supposed to give off to allocate proper resources were just amuck, and especially when you sat in Dennis Meadows' class, you realized that he had some tremendous insight, along with all the other people in the '70s that were writing on the heels of Rachel Carson.
TOMBut one of the major issues that we had at that time was, has the damage already been done, since the politics just aren't there to help out in any major way, given the huge issues we face.
JUNIPERIndeed, the politics do lag behind. I think one of the things that I learned over years of campaigning -- and I think this has become more pronounced in recent years -- is how politicians tend not to lead so much anymore, but tend to follow. And I think if there is any hope in getting politics to respond to some of these things it is going to come from the grassroots and people's awareness rising up, the people getting together and running campaigns. And the fact that people's minds have changed, I think, will be the thing in the end that will make the politicians move into a different level of policy making.
JUNIPERAnd, actually, this is one of the reasons why I wrote this book, is to make it impossible -- I hope -- in the coming years, for politicians to stand up and give speeches suggesting that nature is somehow an alternative to economic development. And that's what they still do in the U.K. It's madness and it's madness at so many levels, but they still say it. And I think shifting the awareness to the point where politicians know that they will be laughed out of office if they say these things is where we have to head towards. And so I think, you know, hoping for the top-down change of policy, yes. You know, let's keep pressing for that.
JUNIPERAnd it was good that President Obama set out some relatively strong ideas on climate change a few weeks back, but I think, in the end, if we're going to win these struggles it's going to have to come from all of us as individuals, community level. We can all do our bit, as well as shoppers, in the way in which we interact with people who we buy goods and services from. We're all very influential, but in the end I think the politicians -- they don't lead anymore, unfortunately, even on these big issues.
REHMThanks for your call, Tom, but in the end doesn't it come down to the political clout that money carries, both in terms of…
REHM…the Keystone pipeline, in terms…
REHM…of fracking? I mean those who have the money have the voice.
JUNIPERThey do. And I think it's been very interesting in recent months or, in fact, recent years, how there's been more interaction with some of the big institutional investors. And so not so much the corporates who are building the pipelines and making the coal mines and building the power stations, but more of a conversation opening with the people who are putting in the capital, which is enabling this to happen. And there's been a very interesting discussion breaking out in recent months about the extent to which companies investing in this kind of infrastructure might be investing in stranded assets.
JUNIPERSo pension funds being warned, for example, that by investing in coal mines they might be just leaving their money in a place where they're not going to get a return because, you know, if you are serious about keeping the climate change within manageable proportions, we can only burn about one-third of the fossil fuels that we know about. So if you're investing institutional money in fossil fuels, you're basically investing in a carbon bubble that might come crashing down in the same way that the subprime mortgage market did.
JUNIPERAnd so that message getting across to the financial institutions, I think, is really quite an interesting development. And, indeed, some of the big institutional funds are beginning to withdraw from fossil fuels. So once that tap of money is cut off for the right reasons, then I think we might see some big change emerging from that direction, as well.
REHMHere's an email from Mike, who says, "In the fruit-growing business the monetary value of bees for pollination is not in dispute. They are driven by market forces to reduce costs. The way they use the bees, as documented by films like Queen Of The Sun is horrific. They box them up and drive them hundreds of miles…
REHM"…then revive them by drowning the hive in corn syrup. It's sickening, but the growers defend the practice by saying it's necessary to stay in business.
REHM"There's evidence they're destroying the bees by putting them under stress that leaves them vulnerable to mites and other natural dangers, but staying in business this year seems the only thing they can think about."
JUNIPERIndeed. And in "What Has Nature Ever Done For Us?" I talk about some of the extreme cases of where honey bees have been deployed to maintain fruit production. Perhaps the best example I came across was the almond-growing region in the Central Valley in California, where, literally, a million bee hives have to be shipped in, in the spring, to be able to pollinate the blossoms on the almond trees. And the reason for this is because all the wild pollinators have been wiped out. And so this is really a response to wider environmental damage, having destroyed the bumblebees and everything else, we have to now ship in beehives like this.
JUNIPERFor me, the better route would be to restore the habitat for the natural pollinators.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." And finally, to Soreia, here in Washington, D.C. You're on the air.
SOREIAYes. Hello. Thank you so much for taking my call.
SOREIAI haven't had a chance to read the book yet, so forgive me if you make these linkages, but I'm wondering if you could comment on your work and the work of feminist economists, for example Marilyn Waring, who made connections between failures in our systems of accounting to recognize women's labor globally, and the profitable degradation of the environment.
JUNIPERIndeed. I mean, it all comes down to measurement. And so one of the points I make towards the end of the book is the extent to which our measures of growth are really an illusion. They're only measures of growth so long as you take out all the other things, in terms of the impacts of social inequality, gender discrimination, damage to the natural environment. All these things have real costs to society. And the only reason we appear to have growth economies is because we're not measuring them.
JUNIPERAnd so, you know, a whole other discipline is beginning to break out, in terms of full-cost accounting, that there are international processes. For example, the International Integrated Reporting Council is one that's trying to bring people together to find different ways of being able to get a fuller picture of what's going on in terms of economic development. So, you know, I think that's just another one of the issues that modern economists exclude to make another externality and to give us the kinds of outcomes that we get as a result.
REHMAnd finally, an email from Michael, in Leesburg, Va. "I'd like to hear Tony Juniper's ideal practical image of our future and how it will sustain our growing population."
JUNIPERSo the idea I come with towards the end of this book is the idea of a bio economy. So this is the economy fused and integrated with the biosphere. So the biosphere is the set of integrated natural systems, the oceans, the atmosphere, the forests, the range lands, the coral reefs, the fish stocks. All of that together needs to be integrated with our economy and to be merged with what you might call the technosphere, i.e. the world of technology and the world of human culture, what you could call the ethnosphere.
JUNIPERAnd so bringing these three things together, a bio economy based upon different ways of using natural resources, of minimizing our impacts on the natural environment, that's basically where we need to go. And as I say, all the tools, in the sense of renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, more sensible use of natural resources, ranging from soils to fish to fresh water -- all of these things we know how to do already, and it's about changing our economic mindset.
JUNIPERAnd so, for me, this is about a very high level shift of narrative. And I know that people like to look at more specific solutions, but I think the specific solutions will only flow once we see the economy and ecology in a different way.
REHMWhat a pleasure to talk with you, Tony Juniper. Thank you.
JUNIPERMy pleasure, Diane. Thank you so much.
REHMTony Juniper is the author of "What Has Nature Ever Done For Us?" and thanks for listening all. I'm Diane Rehm.
Most Recent Shows
For months it looked like Russia was waging – and winning -- a battle of attrition. But last week Ukrainian forces made dramatic gains on the battlefield, retaking vast areas…
From McCarthyism to January Sixth, best-selling author David Corn says the G.O.P has a long history of using paranoia, grievance, and tribalism for political gain. His new book is "American Psychosis."
Anthropologist Anita Hannig discusses her new book, "The Day I Die," an intimate investigation of assisted death in America.