• Dipanshu Sharma

Nature doesn’t need us, but we need her.

By Kirsten Slemint

[From Kirsten Slemint's article on Natural Capital]

The crisis currently facing our planet in the way of climate change is not one simply for conservationists and ecologists. It is not a war between economy and science, nor is it a choice between the two.

Threats to the environment ARE threats to the economy, to its foundation. Without nature the economy simply ceases to exist.

When it comes to calculating the wealth of a nation, however, traditional methods not only fail to account for living nature but make it invisible.

For example, in 2017 Deloitte Access Economics took a survey-based approach to ‘understand precisely what the [Great Barrier] Reef contributes and, what [Australian’s] stand to lose without it’. The report calculated an economic, social and icon asset value of $56 billion claiming it supports 64,000 jobs and contributes $6.4 billion to the Australian economy annually.

There is no doubt that the Great Barrier Reef holds significant value for the global community but the efforts by Deloitte have been criticised for not including many of the non-market values or ‘ecosystem services’ that the reef provides.

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA) highlighted the benefits humans derive from nature as recipients of ‘ecosystem services’. These benefits include supporting, provisioning, regulating, and cultural services, which sustain and fulfil human life.

Figure 1. In 2005, a consortium of hundreds of scientists from over 70 nations, released the most extensive study of the links between human health and the world’s ecosystems, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA). These ‘ecosystem services’ are organised into four broad categories. Graphic: Metro Vancouver

Some ecosystem services are obvious – healthy soil supports crop growth (thank you, microbes) and those same crops require pollination (thank you, insects). Others are easier to overlook – the carbon sequestered by plants, fungi and oceans (thank you, decomposition) and the protection of coastal areas offered by coral reefs, mangroves and wetlands during storms and flooding (thank you, natural barriers).

In her essay for Griffith Review: 63 – Valuing country, Gleeson-White poses a question that asks how our thinking about nature shapes our behaviour towards it.

“What power of caring could be unleashed if we all took the time to attend to the particularities of our places?”

Though action must be taken ‘around the tables of power’, a shift in consciousness must come from us all.

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