Archive for October, 2010

From Ecosystem Services to Gift Culture: An Overdue Change in Perspective

What if we changed our relationship with the natural world from one of taking what we can to one of reciprocity and mutual giving?

The International Satoyama Initiative formally launched at this week’s COP10 Biodiversity Conference in Nagoya, Japan, provides an important boost to preserving traditional forest and farmland (“satoyama”), and seaside (“satoumi”) ecological production landscapes around the world and restoring a balanced and sustainable harmony between humans and the natural environment.

But is the proposed cure for satoyama’s current degenerative state – assigning such biodiverse landscapes value in direct proportion to their “ecosystem services” provided to humans – adequate to the task? Or does viewing nature in such a calculated way – and justifying its preservation for the “services” provided – simply perpetuate obsolete, if widely-held, myths of human separation from nature and nature existing for our benefit? Continue reading

UNEP says “Satoyama may prove to be one of Japan’s most important exports”

Addressing yesterday’s opening of the biodiversity summit in Nagoya, the 10th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the CBD, Achim Steiner, the United Nations Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), noted something very significant and, I believe, right on target:

Japan’s ancient culture and legendary technological innovation has given the world many things. But perhaps in many ways Satoyama may prove to be among the most important exports of Japan to a world still searching for sustainability.

On a related note, OurWorld 2.0, a profoundly important webzine, just posted a selection of their short films about satoyama and biodiversity, each one exquisitely produced by the United Nations University. This selection was featured at a film festival associated with the COP10 conference in Nagoya on October 17, 2010. Do check out these “Stories from a Biodiverse World“!

Ecosystem Services – A transitional concept?

One of my favorite webzines, Our World 2.0, recently posted an article exploring the merits of developed countries paying developing countries to protect their so-called “ecosystem services.”

The concept of ecosystems providing a valuable service to humanity, and thus being worthy of protection, is a key proposition in the Satoyama Initiative’s quest to protect biodiversity. My feeling is that justifying the preservation of nature because it provides a service we recognize as valuable is adequate as far as it goes, but it’s nonetheless an old paradigm response. I’m re-posting my comment here: Continue reading