Friday, October 09, 2009

Valuing the Services Mother Nature Provides to Humanity

Planet Green has a very nice summary of the services that mother nature provides, without which civilization as we know it would go kaput.  Here at CVI, we're huge proponents of valuing ecosystem services to make conservation both possible and profitable.

Notes Planet Green:

In 1997, one study estimated that nature provides an average of $33 trillion worth of services annually.

That study has not gone without controversy, but—whether its authors wanted to foster investment opportunities, or had the foresight to know that's how to get people to care about the environment—it was on the early side of a trend that has since been picking up: recognizing that nature conservation is vital not only for the sake of future generations (and for itself), but also for a healthy economy.

From climate regulation to erosion control to the maintenance of water supplies, nature provides us with services and resources that we recognize, and perhaps even more that we don't. Healthy ecosystems ensure that water gets stored when and where it is naturally supposed to and that it goes through some kind of cleansing or filtration process. Healthy ecosystems are ones that cycle nutrients regularly, and in which soil gets formed as it is needed—and in the quantities and quality that we depend on for all the things we use soil for, not least of which is food production.

Of course, there are dangers to further commodification of nature, and some consider this path a "slippery slope".  As Iroquois thinker, John Mohawk, once pointed out, commodifying more of nature's services can also be used to justify their destruction.

But the reality is that faced with the need to feed a growing human population, if people can't make a living off of conservation uses of the resources that surround them, they will be driven to feed themselves and their families via extractive uses.  Payments for ecosystem services provide an emerging means of helping them lead a good life off of the conservation value of the wondrous ecosystems that surround them.

We here at CVI are very much interested in partnering with landowners, agencies, and other NGO's on such efforts. If you need assistance developing innovative ecosystem services-based conservation solutions, drop us a line!

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