What services are provide to humans by the ecosystems?
The framework provided by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005) aggregate the assets and services provided by the natural environment into four categories:
♦ Provisioning services – products obtained from ecosystems, including fresh water, food, fiber (eg. timber, cotton, and wood fuel), genetic resources, biochemicals, natural medicines and pharmaceuticals.
• Regulating services – benefits obtained from the regulation of natural processes, including air quality, climate, water/flood, erosion, water purification, disease and pest control, pollination, buffering pollution.
• Cultural services – non-material benefits people obtain from ecosystems through spiritual enrichment, cognitive development, reflection, recreation and aesthetic enjoyment.
• Supporting services – services that are necessary for the production of all other ecosystem services, including soil formation, photosynthesis, primary production, nutrient cycling and water cycling.
What can I do MAKET IT GREEN KEEP IT BLUE?
There is no exact formula that can be applied but there are some aspects that should be in our minds.
• Plant trees
The trees are essential since they avoid soil erosion, mild the weather, absorb carbon dioxide, store energy through carbon polymers and hydrogen (cellulose and lignin - the wood), retain pollutants and particulate matter in the atmosphere and contribute to capturing and storing water in the soil (and in the groundwater).
• Use energy resources locally produced
Energy sources such as electricity obtained in thermoelectric power stations, natural gas, gasoline and/or diesel, in addition to the diversity of issues related to heir sustainability regarding the production, need to travel long distances between the local where they are produced/extracted to the place where they are consumed, this complex and extensive logistics of distribution significantly reduces the efficiency of these energy sources.
On the other hand there are each time more ways to take efficiently advantage of sustainable energy sources that can be produced and consumed locally, such as solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, hydro and others. The self-energy solution depends on a number of issues and can be the use of only one type of these energy sources, or any combination of them. The objective should always be to reduce the energy bills in terms of cost and in terms of environmental impact.
• Use the energy in a efficient way
The change in some routines can lead to significant energy savings without compromising the usefulness and comfort. What are these routines depends on a personal and careful analysis of the needs and the energy sources available, but the concern for savings and efficiency must be a constant.
• Protect the local fauna and flora
Keep in mind that the best way to prevent pests and weeds is to keep balance ecosystem.
Some tips to consider:
- Use the borders of the properties to create biodiversity tracks able to create shelter and food for the local fauna.
- The stones resulting from land clearing can provide excellent points of nesting and shelter when placed in the borders of the properties.
- During the driest months, put one or more water points in order to ensure local wildlife will access to them, for this purpose we suggest to consider the best way to take advantage of the installed irrigation systems if that is the case, and, where possible, to store rain water, in order to use it, simultaneously, to irrigate and to water dispensers intended for local wildlife.
- Be careful with the interaction of your pets with the local wildlife. Try to avoid the destruction of nests and habitats as well as their hunting just for sport.
• Consume local produced goods
Whenever possible prefer the use of local produced goods, some of the advantages pass through: easy access to information regarding the manufacturing/production processes, maintenance of the local economy, reducing the monetary and environmental costs associated with transportation, among others.
The concern with the proximity should be even more significant with regard to the production of food, especially the "fresh" food, not only to ensure the consumer with a high freshness content but also because the distribution chains and transportation of these foods has a significant associated energy inefficiency especially when refrigeration is required.
• Reduce waste
Some tips regarding these:
- adapt the consumption to the real needs;
- choose products with less need for packaging;
- search new uses for goods considered obsolete;
- seek, when possible and appropriate, a market solutions in second-hand.
Many other ways are certainly possible, it is important to be innovative in seeking environmental savings and looking for different perspectives / solutions.
Why are the bees so important?
It is estimated that without bee one-third of the food consumed by humans would disappear. The greatest contribution of bees and other pollinators is the pollination of nearly three quarters of the plants that produce 90% of the world’s food. A third of the world’s food production depends on bees, i.e. every third spoonful of food depends on pollination.
The effects may even be much higher due to the indirect impact on the genetic diversity and future subsequent production losses, coming from weaker plants more vulnerable to diseases.
The potential losses on the food production due to the reduction of bees can't be ignored.
The hermaphrodite plants (the vast majority), ie with male and female organs in the same flower does not usually reach maturity of both organs (male and female) at the same time; thus making impossible the auto fertilization, preventing fertilization within the same plant (wisdom of nature), which would result in weakened descent with loss of seed viability and production losses.
For this reason pollination between plants (cross-pollination) is essential to ensure more viable plants. It is in this context that the bees have a prominent role, since in their daily activity bees are tireless in fly from flower to flower, being an excellent helper to the required cross pollination between plants.
What wildlife means?
Wildlife refers to all non-domesticated animal species, plants, fungi, and other organisms that grow or live wild in an area without being introduced by humans.
So wildlife include all the animals and plants that are untouched by human factor (100%wild) but also animals and plants that have adapted to suburban and rural environment without direct dependence on humans, like some birds, fox, rabbits, partridges, lizards, snakes, bears and so on.
Why is wildlife important?
The Wildlife is an important part of all the ecosystems as we (humans) know it.
Our environment promotes an incredible biodiversity, and it’s the interaction between this biodiversity that contributes directly to the sustainability of all the life on our planet. All the life on our planet is interdependent, meaning that no specie can survive alone. Every organism has a role to play in the bigger picture of life. It is impossible for humans to control, even to understand, every aspects of this interactions and be sure that a replacement of a given specie by another will not leave to a catastrophic event.
It will be wise to admit that, over time, the changes we made and provoke will bring consequences that are difficult to predict and measure.
When humans select one species to promote over other, they are reducing the genetic heritage, choosing one, or few, characteristics instead of innumerous amount of others. One of the dangers is the appearance of some risk factor such as a disease or a change in weather conditions, which will endangers all those who share the few selected characteristics.
The biodiversity, the diversity of wildlife and ecosystems mitigates this risk by ensuring a higher probability of survival, resilience and evolution; crucial to promote the strength of the entire group.
Not only the genetic diversity is important but also the balance of the ecosystems, since all lives are hugely interconnected (including humans’ life) and a loss of a specie may endanger that balance.
For example the best way to avoid a plague is to maintain a balance ecosystem, the existence of competitors and natural predators can be enough to prevent certain species from developing into a plague.
Increase the level of knowledge about the local species is essential to help protect local biodiversity and avoid some fears that lead to the persecution of some animals like hawks, eagles, frogs, snakes, bees and so on.
Is the economy valuing the impacts of Natural Capital?
Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the most common measure of economic activity, do not capture the full benefits provided to the society by the natural environment, nor reflects the extent to which environmental resources have been depleted or degraded.
Economic measures don’t take into account that some services provided by natural assets are limited and cannot be substituted for by other goods and services, so the reduction of this nature assets don’t penalize the economic measure. For example, air quality or the fresh water cannot be substitute by other nature asset, so a good measure should emphasize that each time a country or region reduces this type of natural assets is poorer than before (the values of its stocks is lower).
In addition, economic measures are typically limit to a certain organization, country or region and to a given year, don’t taking into consideration the global economy and a time horizon long enough to allow the consideration of the impacts on the Natural Capital.
Can we prepare retirement without taking care of environmental sustainability?
Our future, whether as children, active workers and pensioners depends, depend on our ability to take care of the natural resources we have available and preserve its sustainability.
Typically social policies with regard to retirement consider only economic issues, however, it is important to raise concerns about environmental sustainability in the preparation of the retirement. If the retirement occurs in a healthy and sustainable natural environment, is likely that less economic resources will be need to maintain a good standard of living, on the other hand, in an unsustainable natural environment there may be assets that economic resources may not be able to buy, such as climate stability, good air quality and water.
Can we do something without economic incentives?
Yes, see the question How can I MAKE IT GREEN and KEEP IT BLUE?
The economic incentives, usually tax incentives, are granted to promote some sustainable options over others, but we should not be limited to the existence of these incentives. If investments allow you to increase efficiency, preserve the local flora and fauna, produce food locally or reduce the ecological footprint the rationality of such invest should not be limited to the economic value.