Friday, February 5, 2010

Chapter 12: Ecosystems and Human Well-being

This chapter was longer than most so it will take some time to review. It discusses the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and Millennium Development Goals called for by 2000's UN Security General Hofi Annan. In this reflection I will list various goals, scenarios and findings the presented in the chapter.

The key concept in this chapter is: The need for substantial, basic changes in government, economics, technology, social behavior, and knowledge to achieve a sustainable future.

Some statistics include:
- an estimated 60% (15 out of 24) of ecosystem services examined by the MA (fresh water,capture fisheries etc...) are being degraded or are unstable.
- Since 1750 carbon dioxide levels in the air have increased by 32% (280 parts per million to 376 parts per million in 2003) with 60% of that increase having taken place since 1959 due to fossil fuel use.
- 70% of world-wide water use us for agriculture.
- Some 10-30% of mammal, bird and amphibian species are currently threatened with extinction.

Four Findings by the MA are:
1) Over the past 50 years, humans have changed ecosystems more rapidly and extensively than in any comparable period of time in human history, largely to meet rapidly growing demands for food, fresh water, timber, fibre and fuel. This has resulted in a substantial and largely irreversible loss in the diversity of life on Earth.
2) The changes that have been made to ecosystems have contributed to substantial net gains in human well-being and economic development, but these gains have been achieved at growing costs in the form of degradation of many ecosystem services, increased risks of nonlinear changes, and the exacerbation of poverty for some groups of people. These problems, unless addressed, will substantially diminish the benefits that future generations obtain from ecosystems.
3) The degradation of ecosystem services could grow significantly worse during the first half of this century and is a barrier to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
4)The challenge of reversing the degradation of ecosystems while meeting the increased demands for their services can be partially met under some scenarios that the MA considered, but these involve significant changes in policies, institutions, and practices that are no currently underway. Many options exist to conserve or enhance specific ecosystem services in ways that reduce negative trade-offs or that provide positive synergies with other ecosystem services.

Essentially these four findings are saying that ma mankind has accelerated its rate of consumption of the Earth's resources and the alteration of its environments. We have to radically change how some things are down and how we manage our consumption if we want to have a sustainable future.

The scenarios mentioned above are a means of exploring plausible future for ecosystems and human well-being based on assumptions driving forces of change. The all take place in 2050 roughly. Briefly, they are:
Global Orchestration - This depicts a globally connected society that focuses on economic liberalization as well as a reactive approach and strong steps regarding ecosystem problems and reducing poverty and inequality along with investing in infrastructure and education. There is high economic growth but has lowest population.
Order from Strength - Here we have a fragmented world concerned with security, protection while taking little interest in public goods and a reactive approach to to ecosystem problems. Economic growth is lowest but population is growth is highest.
Adapting Mosaic - There is a lot of local institutional and economic management and strengthening.Societies have a strongly proactive approach to managing ecosystems. Growth rates start low but grow over time and population is almost as high as Order from Strength.
TechnoGarden - A globally connected world relying strongly on environmentally sound technology while using often engineered ecosystems to deliver ecosystem services. Economic growth is high and accelerates while population is mid-range.

These scenarios aren't predictions and were developed to explore unpredictable features of change in drivers and ecosystem services. Each case begin form the world as it currently stands and incorporate significant policy changes and which are aimed at addressing sustainable development challenges.

The chapter also explores examples that are suggested to be promising and effective responses for specific sectors. In other words, well thought out goals mankind should strive to reach in order to achieve a more sustainable future.

For Agriculture some goals include; 1) the removal of production subsidies that have adverse economic and social and environmental effects 2) Investing in and diffusion of agricultural science and technology to help sustain our current food demands without harming the ecosystem 3) Recognize the role of women and implementing policies to help empower women and ensuring access to control of resources necessary for food security.

Fisheries and Agriculture; 1) Reduction is marine fishing capacity (obviously, if the Grand Banks are any example) 2) Strict regulations of the establishment and implementation of quotas, steps to address unreported and unregulated harvest (help keep track of who's over stepping the boundaries and could be a potential threat to the ecosystem) 3) Establishing regulatory systems and marine protected areas (reduces the impact of of fishing on the environment and ensures marine life has "safe zones" to thrive in).

Water; 1) Payments for ecosystem services provided by water sheds (in other words if you want to use the water you've got to pay for it) 2) Increased transparency of water related information and improved representation of stakeholders and emphasis on the natural environment rather than measurements for dams and such. 3) Investing in science and technology to increase efficiency of water use in agriculture.

Forestry; 1) Integrate agreed sustainable management practices on areas such as finance, trade etc to help manage interaction with the environment 2) Empower local communities that depend heavily on the local environment that are in support for sustainable practices.

The ideas, scenarios and facts this chapter covers are all a means to a sustainable end. I agree with many of them especially a more global effort where all countries manage the use of the Earth's resources. This would mean a louder voice for those who want to help protect ecosystems and better the flow of information. The Earth is home to all people and should be managed as a whole, not just at the convenience of, or in the hands of a few countries.

No comments:

Post a Comment