Development and the environment have traditionally been managed separately, but a new report by the World Resources Institute (WRI) guides decision makers in how this can be reconciled to increase prosperity and protect the planet.
“Development and nature have traditionally been handled by separate academic disciplines, separate government agencies, and separate laws and policies,” said Janet Ranganathan, lead author of the book and vice president for science and research at WRI.
She added, “Development planners too often assume that the natural assets that development depends upon will always be there. Conservationists, on the other hand, are often preoccupied with minimizing the negative impacts of development on nature or putting it off limits to people.”
Ecosystem Services: A Guide for Decision Makers, released here today at the opening of the IUCN World Conservation Congress, uses ecosystem services - the benefits of nature - to make the link between nature and development.
“Global climate is changing and, at the same time, our natural assets are dwindling. These two trends are on a collision course,” wrote Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former president of Brazil, and William Ruckelshaus, former administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in the foreword of the report.
Economic development often goes forward at the expense of nature’s ability to provide people with goods and services. Twenty percent of the Brazilian Amazon has been deforested by loggers, farmers, and ranchers, threatening the capacity of the “Lungs of our Planet” to recycle carbon dioxide into oxygen, clean our air, and regulate regional and global climate. The Puget Sound near Seattle, Washington faces environmental challenges such as water pollution and toxic-laden sentiments, which jeopardize recreation activities for humans as well as the habitat of the iconic Pacific salmon.
Like the guidance in this report, both regions are pioneering ways to reconcile development and environment goals - not just for the sake of nature, but also for the sake of people.
The report also takes a novel approach by telling a fictional story about a city grappling with preventing flood protection and providing clean water while helping the country raise and sell biofuels. The story illustrates the difficult trade-offs that policymakers face in many parts of the world: how to provide cleaner energy and jobs but avoid increasing food and land prices and endangering forests and clean water.
Within the report, five steps are detailed on how decision makers can proceed. Step one is to identify the ecosystem services in play. Step two is to screen the ecosystem services for relevance. Next is assessing the conditions and trends of the relevant ecosystem services. Step four is to access the need for an economic evaluation of services. Finally, step five is to identify ecosystem service risks and opportunities.
For more information or to download the report for free, please visit www.wri.org.
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