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User:Pangaia/My musings on Quantifying ecological value

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Capitalists seem to believe that the value of nature is quantified by how much money you can get people to pay for it on the free market. But, alas, no. This measures the value that Man has been able to understand about an ecosystem. But what if you didn't know that trees make oxygen for mammals (an understanding that's hardly a century old)? And then proceeded to turn all timber into lumber? Pretty soon your soil dries up because it's not making moisture, since you're not making oxygen to create clouds and rain. Ooops. Hello Oklahoma dustbowl.

So, with modern biology and physics, one can quantify the work done by ecosystems. One can calculate the work done by a tree, for example, to lift a grain of soil 10 feet into a branch or leaf. That's what this page is for.

Note: the following are preliminary figures. Feel free to apply some more math and physics to come up with better ones and document these better.

sun[edit]

The sun can produce about 2000watts per square meter of land. That's direct overhead sunlight at the equator. That's also about the maximum theoretical amount you'll be able to get from your solar arrays. In truth, the amount of energy you can actually extract is related to flux, and that flux is part of a giant equation in the quantum computer that is the biosphere itself (or in the case of solar cells, another force related to your consumerism). To get maximum flux for your little ecosphere, you'll need to hold dominion over it. There's a reason trees planted in the meridian of your city freeway die: no one cares for them and they're not getting the love from that equation.

trees[edit]

A tree does about a penny of work an hour per leaf (it's actually about $0.13/hr in full sunlight at about 15ft off the ground considering 3" diameter leaf area). Let's say that it does a penny of work per day and there are 5000 leaves per year on average (during the growth of the tree) at this average sunlight rate. That's at least a million dollars ($1,000,000) that an average tree's (not counting giant redwoods) work provides to the ecosystem during its lifetime (~100 years): foilage, shade, oxygen, food, wood (lumber and, later, firewood @~$5/lb), etc.

rivers[edit]

A cubic foot of water takes about $250 of work to lift into the atmosphere and deposit up in the mountains. This is, btw, how you get hydroelectric value out of this running water. An average river, say of 40 feet across and 1 ft deep, running at 2ft/sec amounts to 80cubic ft per sec. That's $20,000 running by every second. This is pure, mountain water. Once contaminated with your city waste and pollution, figure about $2/ft3. Want citations? suck my dick, because no one has done this work that I'm aware of, or do it yourself and then YOU get to be the citation.

If you're getting hydro-electric power beyond this dollar amount, please create lakes for fish to rest. Figure about 1 acre of lake per 10,000Watt-days (10,000 continuous watts for 24hrs). That means, for example, that there should be roughly 10,000acres of lake(s) for each hydroelectric dam on the Columbia River Gorge (west of Deschuttes). You can count the lake above the dam as long as there is a channel for fish to swim around it that doesn't fatigue them (creating upside-down fish and excessive muscle strain to stay upright). (These lakes should be green lakes, no counting dead lakes.)

wetlands[edit]

Wetlands purify water, much like evaporation. The presence of dark-green reeds is the indicator of filtering taking place. If you don't have water flow, you don't have a wetland, you have a swamp. These are not considered valuable for ecosystems, because despite what conventional "science" might tell you, frogs and lizards are not part of a healthy ecosystem. They are indicators for something else -- your imbalances. Again, refer to Open Religion. Best way to transform such swampy areas is by planting trees around them.

Figure minimally $10/day per sq ft of wetland as long as there is flow with a minimal flow of 0.5ft3/sec and sufficient photosynthesis.

terrain[edit]

Solid rock is a considerable asset. It takes a lot of energy and experiences to fuse soil into rock. I've figured it to be worth about 100^<moh hardness> cents per cubic foot. Breaking rock into smaller pieces is not as valuable as, say, the work done by billions of years of erosion to turn stone into smaller, super-smooth rocks. Try to reproduce that value in your tumbler. The utility of such work, done by nature, has yet to be fully realized here.

Conclusion[edit]

So, remember this: you can easily get a millions dollars of value per square mile annually just by nurturing the environment. That's not even including the social economic value that you can make by living amongst it in harmony with some mesh networking (double that, in the evaluation; i.e. $2M/annum).

Farmers with Big Ag are getting about $600k each year in the same acreage or land area -- that's after subsidy from oil and gas (a subsidy which is at least $18/gal of fossil fuel) but before subsidy from the government for storing their grain.

Eco-friendly folks should have a very good hand in which to justify carving out a niche for a social experiment in their county of alternate ways of living.... the global village. This means going back to Eden is a viable, economic alternative to the dominant paradigm!

All these quantifiers are also discussed in Tao of Permaculture. See the link in Ecology if the preceding is red.