If you think our economy is bad...

... then you don't want to know how much we lose economically by deforestation each year. Pavan Sukhdev, leader of The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (Teeb), explained at the World Conservation Congress that the monetary cost of the nature we destroy makes the losses on the financial markets look like chump change. We lose about $2 to $5 trillion a year by destroying natural resources compared to the $1 - $1.5 trillion lost on Wall Street due to the current economic crisis.

The Teeb figure is derived from estimating the economic cost to replace the services that forests provide for free, such as clean water, food, shelter and carbon dioxide absorption. Instead of forests, governments or private businesses need to build reservoirs or provide food that used to come from the natural environment, or do without them, which is particularly hard for the world's poor because they rely more heavily on forests for their resources.

The Teeb review hopes to make the economic consequences of conservation real so that politicians and policy makers the value of nature. Currently, the assessment on forests is only phase one - and it already shows that forest decline is costing about 7% of the global GDP. Phase two will expand the report to other natural systems. Teeb hopes to complete the review by 2010, when governments are committed under the Convention of Biological Diversity to have begun slowing the rate of biodiversity loss.

Like the Stern review before it, the Teeb review is making news and drawing more attention to conservation efforts. Finally, tree-hugging lawmakers can say that there really is a cost to the damage we do to our planet - and it's not just making it less pretty.

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