Posts Tagged ‘ecosystem services’

Ecosystem Services as a Concept is Gaining Currency

In what is undoubtedly a positive development for the natural world, the concept of “ecosystem services” is poised to go mainstream. This is a good thing because the concept is based upon the idea that our status quo economic models do not properly recognize the value of so-called externalities and fail to take into account the “services” that complex and biodiverse ecological systems provide to humanity. Seeing the world through such expansive eyes – through the wide-angle lens of ecosystems – is a refreshing, and promising, departure from the conventional narrow economic mindset. As such, one might say (pun intended) that the concept is, er, “gaining currency.”

For all of its promise, however, I would argue that its worth is really as a “bridge concept” – an advance to be sure – but nonetheless just a stepping stone on our longer path toward a greater awareness of our proper relationship to Nature. To arrive where we really need to go we must expand our awareness in ways that are not easy for those of us embedded in the modern world. Toward that end, I am offering the following (lengthy) email dialogue in the hope that it might contribute to progress on our individual and collective journeys. Continue reading

To Serve the Ecosystems that Serve Us

The following article appears in Our World 2.0. It is a modified (improved!) version of a an earlier post on this blog. Thank you, OW2.0, for picking this up and helping spread these ideas!


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 past October’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. Its aim of restoring a balanced and sustainable harmony between humans and the natural environment is something no one could argue the world does not need.

However, is the proposed cure for satoyama’s current degenerative state — assigning such biodiverse landscapes value in direct proportion to the “ecosystem services” (the benefits of nature to households, communities, and economies) provided — adequate to the task? Or does viewing nature in such a calculated way, and justifying its preservation based on the things it gives us, simply perpetuate the tired old (yet sadly still quite widely-held) myth of nature existing for our benefit? Continue reading

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