This passage from the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment hints at a solution to the problems of environmental degradation:
The degradation of ecosystem services represents loss of a capital asset. Both renewable resources such as ecosystem services and nonrenewable resources such as mineral deposits, some soil nutrients, and fossil fuels are capital assets…Moreover, many ecosystem services (such as fresh water in aquifers and the use of the atmosphere as a sink for pollutants) are available freely to those who use them, and so again their degradation is not reflected in standard economic measures. When estimates of the economic losses associated with the depletion of natural assets are factored into measurements of the total wealth of nations, they significantly change the balance sheet of countries with economies significantly dependent on natural resources.
This raises the question: why don’t we treat ecosystems as capital assets – as tradable things that appear on private individuals’ balance sheets? If we did, many of the problems environmentalists complain about would disappear.