The recent UN study to which you refer is called “The economics of ecosystems and biodiveristy (TEEB). The purpose of the study is to determine the extent to which the loss of habitats entails a significant economic loss. For example, TEEB recently determined that the loss of Mangrove trees in Vietnam would neccesitate 7 million dollars in costs in shore-maintenance. A hectacre of coral reef is worth about 1 million dollars per year.
If you ask me it is rather dismaying that studies such as these are neccesary and that the environment is important to some only when considered in terms of exchange value.
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