There are times when the most difficult decision of all is to acknowledge the obvious.
Yet for too long in both rich and poor nations, development priorities have focused on how much humanity can take from our ecosystems, with little attention to the impact of our actions.
With World Resources 2000-2001, the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Environment Programme, the World Bank, and the World Resources Institute reconfirm their commitment to making the viability of the world’s ecosystems a critical development priority for the 21st century.
While our dependence on ecosystems may be obvious, the task of integrating considerations of ecosystem capacity into decisions about development is difficult.
The biggest difficulty of all, however, is that people at all levels, from the farmer at the grassroots to the policy maker in the capital, either can’t make good use of the knowledge at hand or lack basic information about the condition and long-term prospects of ecosystems. This report, and the Pilot Analysis of Global Ecosystems (PAGE) on which it is based, is a step toward addressing this problem.
In our unique collaboration on the World Resources report series, our four organizations undertook this edition in a genuine partnership to develop recommendations that would safeguard the world’s ecosystems. We bring together different perspectives and decades of experience working on environment and development issues. We are motivated by the urgent need for solutions that will benefit both people and ecosystems.
At this moment, in all nations – rich and poor – people are experiencing the effects of ecosystem decline in one guise or another: water shortages in the Punjab, India; soil erosion in Tuva, Russia; fish kills off the coast of North Carolina in the United States; landslides on the deforested slopes of Honduras; fires in the disturbed forests of Borneo and Sumatra in Indonesia. The poor, who often depend directly on ecosystems for their livelihoods, suffer most when ecosystems are degraded.
At the same time, people in all parts of the word are working to find solutions: community forest conservation programs in Dhani, India; collective management of grasslands in Mongolia; agricultural transformation in Machakos, Kenya; removal of invasive tree species to protect water resources in South Africa; and restoration of the Everglades in the United States. Governments and private interests at least, stave off the consequences – and countless billions more may be needed to restore ecosystems on a global scale.
As these examples and many others in this volume demonstrate, our knowledge of ecosystems has increased dramatically, but it has simply not kept pace with our ability to alter them. Unless we use the knowledge we’ve gained to sustainably develop Earth