It’s hard to write a good executive summary, especially for people like me, who prefer to ramble on in a stream-of-consciousness fashion for at least 20 pages. But the intro to this policy brief is one of the best summaries I have ever encountered — not only of ecosystem services (or “environmental capital”), but also of just about every environmental problem ever. For example:
The root causes of the degradation of environmental capital are the combined pressures of population growth, rising affluence, and frequent reliance on environmentally disruptive technologies to meet the associated material demands. All of these factors are compounded by bad management, traceable in part to under-appreciation of the importance of environmental capital for human well-being and to the exclusion of the value of its services from the economic balance sheets of producers and consumers. …
In the absence of [government] intervention, individuals and firms are able to capture the benefits of activities that produce … ecosystem disruption but are able to avoid most of the attendant damages, which are spread across society. … Private firms and individuals have little incentive, absent requirements imposed by government, to invest in maintaining or growing capital of this kind.
It is now much clearer than before that the historic drivers of degradation of environmental capital—replacement of complex natural ecosystems with simpler man-made ones, invasive species, overexploitation of commercially valuable plants and animals, chemical pollution—are being compounded and amplified to a rapidly growing degree by global climate change.
Anyway, it’d better be good — it’s for the executive-est of executives.