gomera2_Robert NickelsbergGetty Images_deforestation indonesia Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images

Nature vs. Infrastructure

The twenty-first century will be a period of unprecedented infrastructure expansion, and a staggering $90 trillion will be spent over the next 15 years to build or replace dams, power plants, and other facilities. The only way to avoid environmentally reckless projects is to recognize the true value of nature.

CAMBRIDGE – In November 2017, scientists working in Sumatra, Indonesia, made an exciting announcement: they had discovered a new species of orangutan, bringing to seven the number of great ape species globally.

But one year later, the only home of the 800 wild Tapanuli orangutans is being cleared for a $1.6 billion dam and hydroelectric power plant. Although the project will contribute less than 1% of the country’s planned generating capacity, scientists say it will lead to the extinction of this rare species. This raises, once again, a key question: what is nature worth? 

Indonesia is not alone in making environmentally detrimental trade-offs. The twenty-first century will be a period of unprecedented infrastructure expansion, and a staggering $90 trillion will be spent over the next 15 years to build or replace dams, power plants, and other facilities. In fact, more infrastructure will be built over the next decade and a half than currently exists. Naturally, habitats will be disrupted in the process.

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