What does nature do for us?

We all know that we depend on the earth and its systems for our life and wellbeing. But beyond the obvious things like food, we might not be able to actually draw up a list. Here’s a nice summary of the ‘ecosystem services’ that natures lays on for us:


That graphic is what I wanted to share really, but while I’m here, some thoughts on the term ‘ecosystem services’ for those who might be interested… While I’m not a particularly big fan of seeing nature as a service provider to us humans, it can be a helpful way to talk about environmental issues. Life on earth works within these natural systems, holding a stock of ‘natural capital’ from which ‘ecosystem services’ flow. When human activity erodes the stock of natural capital or overloads the system, it compromises the service that we rely on. A build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere disrupts the planet’s natural climate regulation. Intensive agriculture asks too much from soil formation. Indiscriminate pesticides threaten pollination.

There’s something straightforward and unsentimental about this understanding of the natural world. It’s certainly not the only way to talk about nature, which I fundamentally believe is wonderful in its own right, independent of our use of it. But the language of capital and services can be helpful in communicating environmental issues to those who think along those lines.

The graphic is from the 2016 Living Planet Report, which you’ll find in full here.

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