Valuing natural capital
The annual prize is awarded for "Outstanding innovations or scientific discoveries which in broad terms fall within the environmental field".
Professor Daily of Stanford University is one of the world's foremost experts on the valuation of natural capital. She is convinced that the only way to create longterm welfare is to quantify the value of ecosystems.
Putting a price on nature is controversial among many in the environmental movement. The beauty value of nature, the benefits of living seas, healthy forests and species diversity cannot, say critics, be given a monetary price tag.
"I understand their concern," says Gretchen Daily, “but today the problem is that so much of the ecosystems and the services we get from them are, in principle, valued at zero. We need to work pragmatically to fix this. If we can demonstrate economically the enormous benefits of pollination by insects or natural protections against climate change and floods, then investments in nature will become part of everyday life. We're talking about 21st-century environmental protection."
Gretchen Daily is one of the pioneers of quantifying and valuing natural capital. In 2002 she published her book The New Economy of Nature: the Quest to Make
Conservation Profitable (written with Katherine Ellison).
In 2006 she and others founded the Natural Capital Project, where Stanford University, together with the Worldwide Fund for Nature and The Nature Conservancy, develops methods for measuring the economic value of ecosystem services.
Professor Gretchen Daily is not only a prominent theoretician in her field, she is also in demand as adviser to projects across the world where efforts are being made to protect the biological productivity of land areas while at the same time enabling sustainable economic growth.
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