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The New Bioeconomy: Conservation Is Now More Valuable Than The Extraction of Natural Resources

The economics of our world is changing for the better. We have reached a point where there is now more incentive for countries, companies, and individuals to protect and foster nature than to extract resources from it. 

In a comprehensive new report, more than 100 economists and scientists found that the global economy would benefit from more protected areas of land and at sea. The economic benefits of protecting nature outweigh the cost by at least 5 to 1. 

“Our report shows that protection in today’s economy brings in more revenue than the alternatives and likely adds revenue to agriculture and forestry, while helping prevent climate change, water crises, biodiversity loss and disease. Increasing nature protection is sound policy for governments juggling multiple interests. You cannot put a price tag on nature — but the economic numbers point to its protection,” the report’s lead author Anthony Waldron said in a press release.

It is now undeniable that the exploitation of our natural environment is not only bad for our health but it’s a poor financial decision. 

Right now, only around 15 percent of the world’s land and seven percent of the ocean has some degree of protection. At least 30 percent of the planet’s land and ocean must be protected to address the alarming collapse of the natural world, which now threatens up to one million species with extinction.

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Nature’s Return on Investment

This report highlights that global annual investment of $140 billion toward reaching and maintaining this conservation goal would return an average annual economic out of $250 billion. You don’t have to be a financial guru to understand that’s a win-win in the new bioeconomy.

In the American West, cities like Grand Junction, CO; Vernal, UT; and Farmington, NM, are experiencing firsthand the financial benefits of shifting economic focus from oil and gas development to recreation and conservation. Some parcels of land surrounding these places are being restored for outdoor recreation sites like trail systems for hiking, biking, off-roading, and other nature activities. 

Up until recently, activists standing up for the values of human nature have lost to highly profitable industries like energy and real estate development. Between the positive economic impact of adventure tourism and the biodynamic agriculture movement, we could see a significant transition towards a more biodiverse, healthy, resilient planet. 

If the United States converts all the agricultural land–currently 44 percent–to biodynamic agriculture we would hit the threshold required for biodiversity preservation while healing our soil and pulling carbon out of the atmosphere. Another win-win.

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Companies Evolving Towards a Regenerative Economy

Large corporations and boutique businesses alike understand the importance of building a sustainable supply chain. Several leaders across industries are investing in ethical and regenerative land management. And while there is much progress to be made on the policy front, these companies are paving the way for more to follow.

The largest food companies in the world are realizing that the idea of sequestering carbon in the soil to improve our food integrity and limiting the severity of climate change is for their economic salvation. General Mills has committed to advancing regenerative agriculture practices on 1 million acres of farmland by 2030. Because they recognize that in a new bioeconomy “To drive growth and increase resilience, we need to move beyond just sustaining our planet, and use our scale to start regenerating it.”

Smaller food companies are experiencing better yield by focusing on quality instead of quantity. And research shows that Millennials and Gen Z are willing to pay for it.

Brands that are practicing biodynamics like Thousand Hills with a vision to “Rescue the U.S. food system from collapse with decentralized meat processing and regenerative agriculture practices on family farms nationwide” are particularly attractive to the youngest generations. Force of Nature is another organization fighting for a circular bioeconomy. “We believe that when properly managed, animal impact has the ability to create a net positive return on the planet by sequestering carbon from the atmosphere while building topsoil and producing nourishing food.”

Patagonia and Timberland, two prominent American companies in the fashion industry are making major investments into regenerative agriculture knowing how it impacts the materials they use for their products. 

“The fashion industry has a significant impact on greenhouse gas emissions, and we believe it’s all of our responsibility to be a part of the solution,” Timberland director of sustainability Colleen Vien said in a release. “Regenerative agriculture presents a powerful opportunity to go beyond simply minimizing our impact, to actually create value and have a net positive effect for the land and the farmers.”

Even one of the world’s most dominant investment firms BlackRock recognizes the financial benefits of a greener, more regenerative economy. Larry Fink, the company’s CEO, claimed in his annual letter to shareholders that climate change has brought us to “the edge of a fundamental reshaping of finance” and “in the near future … a significant reallocation of capital.” BlackRock has committed to “place sustainability at the center of its investment approach.” 

With so much inertia building towards a better, natural world, there are now more ways than ever to get support for these holistically beneficial endeavors. 

Make sure you are registered to vote for November’s election. Your advocacy can help shape a greener future.

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