From: Tim Wall, Discovery News
Published January 13, 2012 04:14 PM

Jobs for the Poor? Save the Wild for $1 a Day

Sorry Beatles but researchers at Conservation International might contradict your song "Money."

The best things in life aren't free
But you can protect the birds and bees
Now give the poor money


The best things in life aren't really free. Fresh air, clean water, and bountiful crops all depend on healthy ecosystems. But research published in BioScience pointed out that the communities which steward those environmental resources often do not receive payment for their services.

Communities near natural areas which provide economically valuable environmental services are often some of the poorest. The natural areas they live near are some of the most biodiverse. Hence, a potential win-win-win situation exists, according to the research, if those areas are conserved and the people near them receive money for protecting them; everyone in a society benefits from ecosystem services, such as pollination, water purification, food production and climate regulation.

Paying people to steward the nearby ecosystems could help raise them out of poverty, noted the study authored by Will Turner and his colleagues at Conservation International.

But it is much easier said than done.

The challenge is to develop an efficient and reliable way for whole societies benefiting from those natural areas to pay for the services, and to make sure money actually goes to the folks who live in or near them, as opposed to governments, wealthy land owners, or other powerful groups.

The potential for a bureaucratic tangle of regulations and payment programs seems a potential trap for any attempt to pay the poor to protect local wilderness, especially if the programs tried to cover too much land area. But payment programs could be effective even if they focused only on high biodiversity areas.

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Image credit: Hung Chung Chih /

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