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:

I believe payment for ecosystem services is a good idea given the circumstances.

It is, to be sure, not an optimum solution but it is a step in the right direction in that it achieves two things: it maintains biodiversity while mitigating carbon emissions, and it increases people’s awareness, if incrementally, about the need to do so.

The very concept and terminology of “ecosystem services” is based, however, on an obsolete assumption at the root of our unsustainable, endless-growth, consumption-based paradigm: By thinking of nature as providing humans a “service” it perpetuates the myth that we are separate from nature and that nature exists for our benefit. Both are patently false.

With that false assumption in place, we have arrived at where we are: facing an ecological and civilizational abyss as the effects of this false worldview build toward a crash.

So, establishing a payment system for ecosystem services can at best decrease the severity of the coming impact, but it doesn’t change our trajectory.

Waking up to our authentic identity as being one with nature and each other, and living from that awareness, is the service that is truly called for at this time.

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