Financial economist Ralph Chami was with researchers in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez when he saw his first blue whale. She was 110 or 120 feet long, with a mouth large enough to fit an elephant, feeding peacefully next to their boat. Hearing the researchers talk about the astonishing amount of carbon captured by the world’s great whale populations, Chami realized scientists were speaking a language not understood by the people with the money and power to help protect shrinking whale populations. After accounting for all the services a great whale provides, he arrived at $2 million per whale, and saw it would be possible to value other living things—even entire ecosystems. For a nature-based economy to work, he says, ‘you need three things - the science, the valuation, and the policy that confers legal ownership to the natural asset.’ In 2019, he co-founded Blue Green Future to advocate for market values to nature’s regenerative services.

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