Valuing the Invaluable: Virunga

Valuing Natural Capital: The Economic Invisibility of Nature 

The Economic Invisibility of Nature

The ultimate source of all economic capital is natural capital and the world economy is a subsidiary of nature, not the other way round.

We are damaging and over-consuming the planet’s natural capital, on which we all depend for our prosperity and, indeed, survival. Even with over a billion people with no access to drinkable water and living on less than a dollar a day, we are consuming fifty per cent more of the planet’s natural resources than it can renew every year. And, remarkably, we are depleting and destroying this wonderful asset with little idea of the economic consequences. This is, in no small part, due to the economic invisibility of nature and the fact that the value of the planet’s ecosystems and biodiversity has not been taken into account, fully and consistently, in our economic, accounting and decision making systems.

Information is Beautiful Images

The images hope to inspire organizations and show the opportunities that can be secured if the mechanisms needed to value nature’s ecosystems and biodiversity are developed. These valuation mechanisms are vital if we are to meet the challenges of the 21st century.


The ‘Billions’ diagrams below are called treemaps, which is a method for displaying data by using nested rectangles. The diagrams show billion dollar amounts scaled in size as rectangles. Below is an excerpt from the main diagram:

The colours in the ‘Billions’ diagrams represent the category of expenditure, as shown in this key. To view the full diagram, click the image beneath the key to enlarge and read the detail.

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Costing the Earth

The ‘Costing the Earth’ image below uses scale to show global gross domestic product at $63,000 billion, and the value provided by the Earth to the global economy at $50,800 billion. The red dot at the side, which is in relative size, shows that the expenditure needed to preserve the Earth’s natural capital is $93 billion. Click the image to enlarge and read the detail.

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Walk the Talk

Click the image to enlarge and read the detail.

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Data source sheets information is available here

Source: A4S

In response to the granting of oil concessions in Virunga National Park, WWF has launched a campaign to raise awareness of Virunga’s economic value and the implications of oil development for local communities and the environment. As part of the campaign, WWF commissioned Dalberg Global Development Advisors to study. Virunga’s current and potential social and economic value and toindicate the implications of oil exploration and exploitation. (Source WWF)

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