It may seem like a stupid question, but why should we be interested in the role of ecosystem services in poverty alleviation? I am playing devil’s advocate here. If you have, like me, spent time with farmers in Tanzania, then the central role of ecosystem health in their agricultural work, house-building, cooking, heating, investment plans and risk management is obvious. Of course ecosystems and ecosystem services must be central to any plan to alleviate poverty or promote prosperity.
We are used to reading fluid and fluctuating news on water. We may have too much or too little rain, crops desiccate or they rot, or we hear about severe drought, or floods leading to widespread famine, displacement or economic damage. Everybody wants water when it is scarce (but they usually don’t pay more in times of scarcity) and the costs of protecting citizens against its adverse effects are externalised to the public purse. With year to year, or even week to week, fluctuations in the status of such a precious natural resource, what would be the perfect place for water within a Green Economy? How could we know when we have reached an optimal and sustainable management of our available water? With so many environmental and social externalities associated with every drop of water, how much should water cost the user?
Sustainable land use economics are vital to protect the ecosystem services upon which we all depend.
There have been many arguments about "peak oil" and the depletion of metals, but there is one resource that without doubt is limited in supply: land. Unlike most ordinary products, an increase in the price of land doesn't bring about an incentive to produce any more of it - because there can't be any more. The Dutch reclaimed land from the sea, but rising sea levels now mean we have less land.
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