the value of our ecosystem

Submitted by Susan Miller on Mon, 03/24/2008 - 20:03.

Not original content, but an interesting article afforded me by my subscription to URBNET a fascinating listeserve for urban foresters.


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Fascinating Article

Thanks, Susan - quite an illuminatiing piece and attempt to price nature's essential activities.  In light of my recent discussion of water issues I found the excerpt from the article below to be particularly enlightening in providing both a local and global example of attempts to drastically modify 'what nature intended'.  These serve well to show us that the natural order of things can often accomplish the artificial objectives we intend (i.e. water purification, irrigation) far better than we might initially realize... She's a crafty one, Mother Nature is.  Since the piece is a bit dated, it would be interesting to see the re-valuation over the past decade.


In some parts of the United States, for instance, attention is now focused on the benefits of protecting natural watersheds to assure safe and plentiful drinking water supplies, rather than on building expensive filtration plants to purify water from degraded watersheds. New York City recently found it could avoid spending US$6-8 billion on the construction of new water treatment plants by protecting the upstate watershed that has traditionally accomplished these purification services for free. Based on this economic assessment, the city invested US$1.5 billion in buying land around its reservoirs and instituting other protective measures, actions that will not only keep its water pure at a bargain price but also enhance recreation, wildlife habitat, and other ecological benefits (Stapleton 1997:5-6).

In the traditionally prosperous Hadejia-Jama'are flood plain region in northern Nigeria, where more than one half of the wetlands have already been lost to drought and upstream dams, ecosystem valuation has been used to weigh the costs and benefits of proposals that would divert still more water away for irrigated agriculture. The net benefits of such a diversion were priced at US$29 per hectare. Yet, the intact flood plain already provides US$167 per hectare in benefits to a wider range of local people engaged in farming, fishing, grazing livestock, or gathering fuelwood and other wild products-benefits which would be greatly diminished by the project. Thus, even without accounting for such services as wildlife habitat, the wetland is far more valuable to more people in its current state than diverted for irrigation (Barbier et al. 1993).

 Such examples really punctuate the importance of whole systems understanding and thoroughly full life cycle analyses.   Let's just let Nature 'do her thing' - such a simple concept we humans just can't seem to grasp. 


Instead we choose to  pollute the prexisting pristine purity that once prevailed.



Scared??  Everyone should be-- the WSJ even acknowledges that we are in deep shit.  Yesterday's, edition 3/23 included articles banding about "limits to growth" and "government regulation."  Can we finally acknowledge that what's good for the market is not necessarily good for the planet (?!)

WSJ: New Limits to Growth Revive Malthusian Fears

ah, that name Malthus

I mused about this a while back on realneo, here's one way to avoid Malthusian Catastrophe

I found it interesting to read the name Cassandra in the text.

During a heated debate about an expensive bridge over  the street in our community I was called "a Cassandra" for insisting that the bridge and the expense were unnecessary. My feelings were hurt at first. Since the lovely piece of public art has been lifted across our street, I cannot tell you hown many people have referred to it as the "bridge to nowhere". It is pretty, I agree, but my Cassandra-like predictions did come true. We are paying $11 million for a piece of public art because we do not need a bridge from the library to the largely empty building across the street. Let's hope that will change one day. I'm not claiming prescience, but I do often wish we could all take the time to look and see farther when we make these expensive plans.

Sometimes I wonder if people distrust my opinions because of the remains of my once copper red hair. Perhaps when it has all turned to gray... well that's in progress, so we'll see. The bad news is that my aunt Kate who was secretary to the Florida Senate maintained her red hair (and I don't mean with dye) until she was in her nineties. Despite her being right about many legal issues that the senate voted on in that period and after her retirement, no one ever listened to her. Too bad - Tallahassee has suffered with the sprawl and North Florida is currently in the water wars she predicted would ensue. Oh, well... I can't claim to be as bright as she was, but red hair can be a deterrent to getting one's point across it seems. Thank God, I'm no longer a carrot top like I was in my youth.

The Most Beautiful World In The World

A wonderful song... This link should connect you to an mp3 of it

From Harry Nilsson's masterwork "Son Of Schmilisson"


Son Of Schmilsson


Available for purchase (if you are so inclined) at: Amazon 




natural cycles between country and city

I cannot find it just now, but I have read about a farmer in the Hudson Valley who was part of this clean water - watershed protection effort in NY. Here's a NYTimes article about it.

In Unusual Partnership, Farmers Help Safeguard New York Water

The farmer I read about used his manure for energy and learned organic farming methods that he distrusted at first, but now he sees the profits flowing his way. Now his farmhouse and barn heat is powered by methane capture and the dried remains feed his fields. He saves on fertilizer and energy. And the Hudson River stays cleaner. Who loses? Monsanto and ADM.

In my other homeland, Georgia, Alabama and North Florida fight over poor irrigation methods, dams and lack of water conservation measures that leave fisheries and estuaries barren downstream. Interestingly, the folks who are working toward solutions seem to be the farmers and fishermen while Atlanta remains adamant that they need their lawn watering and golf course watering. They never saw it as problematic until this last season's drought.

The ecosystem teaches us about living together - about sharing resources. Ecoevangelism. No wonder the evangelicals are breaking up - so many of them are farmers. These are golden rules that nature teaches. What was once "what god intended", may sooner be "what nature intended" as our guide. Who will lose? Free market capitalism of the sort that does not recognize or value of social and natural capitalism. Maybe the next generation will be able to help us make this shift.