Wagner James Au poses the question in the title of a blog post: Virtual Worlds as Eco Incubators.
He notes that Second Life was originally conceived as a model of the real world replete with a working ecosystem of flora and fauna. Hmmm, that explains why Accel Partners passed on them as an investment even though they’d essentially incubated Linden Labs for two years.
Besides the microcosm that has since been created in SL, the interesting trend to note is corporations like Cisco and IBM focusing on the eco footprint reduction benefits that come with having an increased presence in virtual worlds. Less travel = lower footprint.