What Is Intrinsic Value of Nature? What Is Natural Capital? Eco Champ: Gab Mejia!

by | Feb 1, 2023 | Podcasts, The Climate Daily

What is “Intrinsic Value of Nature”? And What is “Natural Capital”? Plus eco champion, Gab Mejia!



The intrinsic value of nature refers to the value that natural resources, ecosystems, and biodiversity have in and of themselves, independent of their use or economic value. Determining the intrinsic value of nature is a complex task that involves considering a wide range of factors, including ecological, cultural, and spiritual values. One method used to determine the intrinsic value of nature is through ecosystem services, which are the benefits that humans derive from natural ecosystems, such as air and water purification, climate regulation, and pollination of crops. In 1997, a team of scientists led by Robert Costanza at the University of Maryland estimated the global value of ecosystem services to be approximately $33 trillion per year. This estimate was based on the replacement cost of the services provided by ecosystems, such as the cost of purifying water through human-made systems rather than natural wetlands.

Another method for determining the intrinsic value of nature is through the use of option value, which refers to the value of preserving options for future use or development. For example, protecting a forest that contains a yet-to-be-discovered medicinal plant species has value beyond the current economic value of the forest’s timber. In 2021, a team of scientists led by the Global Economic Dynamics and the Biosphere program at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences estimated the intrinsic value of nature to be around $125 trillion per year. This estimate was based on the combined value of ecosystem services, option value and cultural and spiritual values.

The intrinsic value of nature matters because it reflects the inherent worth of natural resources, ecosystems, and biodiversity, independent of their use or economic value. Understanding and recognizing the intrinsic value of nature helps to emphasize the importance of protecting and conserving the planet’s natural resources and biodiversity, which are essential for our well-being and survival. 

DEEPER DIVE: NIH, Nature.com, JSTOR, Saylor Academy


Natural capital refers to the resources and processes provided by the natural environment that are essential for the production of goods and services. These resources include things like air, water, minerals, and forests, as well as the ecosystems that support them: wetlands, oceans, and coral reefs. The concept of natural capital emphasizes the importance of preserving and protecting these resources, as they are essential for human well-being and the functioning of the global economy.  

One Of the key principles of natural capital is that it is finite and subject to depletion. This means that if we do not manage these resources responsibly, they will eventually be depleted and will no longer be able to provide the goods and services that we depend on. For example, if we continue to overfish the oceans, eventually there will not be enough fish to meet the demand for seafood. Similarly, if we continue to pollute our air and water, eventually they will become too toxic for human use. 

Natural capital matters to us because it provides the goods and services that we depend on for our survival and well-being, such as air, water, food, and raw materials. Additionally, natural capital provides indirect benefits, such as aesthetic enjoyment and spiritual fulfillment, that are important to our overall quality of life. The concept of natural capital can be applied to a wide range of issues, including conservation, sustainable development, and climate change.

For example, conservation efforts can be focused on protecting natural capital by preserving endangered species and ecosystems. Sustainable development can be supported by using natural resources in a way that does not deplete them, and by investing in renewable energy sources. Climate change can be addressed by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and protecting ecosystems that act as carbon sinks. 

DEEPER DIVE: Natural Capital Project, World Bank, CapitalsSolution



I had the great good fortune of meeting climate photographer Gab Mejia, at a recent Axios/Natonal Geographic Society “climate communicators” roundtable discussion. And believe me when I say you want to get to know this guy! Mejia is a Filipino conservation photographer based in Manila, Philippines. The focus of Mejia’s work is for the conservation of wetlands and wildlife. Mejia is actually a Civil Engineering by education. He specialized on research on Environmental and Energy Engineering at the University of the Philippines

In 2017, he was the highly-commended finalist for the Global Wetlands Youth Photo Contest by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. In 2019, Mejia joined the Jackson Wild Media Lab Fellowship in the Jackson Wild Summit for natural-history filmmaking and science communication. He also co-authored an academic paper in the Wetlands Science Practice Journal in 2020. In 2021, he was chosen as an Ambassador for Sustainability for the Eurail Europe on Track Program. And he was accepted in the Emerging League Program Fellowship of the International League of Conservation Photographers. He is a National Geographic Explorer, Nikon Asia Ambassador, and a columnist for The Manila Times. In 2021, he was awarded the World Wide Fund For Nature International President’s Youth Award. Mejia was listed on the 2021 Forbes Under 30 List for The Arts in Asia for photography.  

Mejia and I connected over a fantastic project Mejia’s helming tentatively called, Blood Forests. Did you know over 270 land and environmental defenders were killed in the Philippines from 2012 to 2021? That accounts for almost half of the injustices in the world along with Brazil and Colombia. His projects documents these eco champions that their governments would rather be forgotten. It’s a haunting and beautiful requiem. Surf on over to gabmejia.com/Blood-Forests to witness his artistry.

DEEPER DIVE: Gab Mejia, WWF, National Geographic Society