This past spring, David Brand went on a property-scouting trip to Malaysian Borneo. Deep in the rain forest, Brand — founder and director of a forestry investment business — met locals who just couldn't grasp what this Westerner was doing there. They were mystified he did not want to build an illegal logging mill. One of them put his arm around Brand's shoulder. "No one can see what we do here, my friend," he said. "We can cut it all down for you."
Brand sighed. He wasn't there to clear-cut the rain forest. In fact, soon after scoping out that land, he hopped on a plane to London where, in a matter of weeks, he raised $200 million to buy tracts of forest like the one in Borneo — and he's not going to raze those, either. They're investments. The return will come from deals with companies shopping for pollution offsets or with NGOs and governments that will pay to protect the planet's wild places — not because they're pretty, but because they perform a service.
The eco-capitalists are coming, and they aren't wielding Thoreauvian platitudes about the sanctity of nature. Their jargon is far less lyrical: ecological assets, environmental markets, ecosystem services, natural capital. For these guys, biofuels and long-lasting lightbulbs are fine but they're nothing more than a short-term play. The real money is in nascent markets indexed to the health of Mother Nature....MORE from Wired