Human World

Nature provides “ecosystem services”

B.L. Turner of Clark University was one of the first scientists to speak of the Earth and humanity as being coupled.

Scientists are now studying various aspects of what they call the ‘coupled human-environment system.’ It’s a new way of thinking about the relationship between nature and human beings.

B.L. Turner: The last 100 years has been 100 years of humankind manipulating the Earth and treating the biophysical part of the coupled system as a giant resource. Now, I think the next 100 years are going to be treating the biophysical sphere, not simply as a resource but as an entity in and of itself, that its structure and function is critical to our wellbeing.

And some have begun to speak of natural resources in terms of what they call ecosystem services.

B.L. Turner: It’s not whether you like the turtles and trees over people and more cars. It’s not just a question of values. It’s a question of whether or not the Earth’s systems can deliver the base needs that society demands of nature. Up to this point, we’ve basically assumed that those services that nature provides for us are simply going to be there. Clean air will always be there. What’s really changed is that we realize that we can move some of those services that nature provides to a tipping point and then it becomes a terribly expensive technological endeavor to substitute or replace.

Our thanks to:
B.L. Turner II
Higgins Professor of Environment and Society
& Director of the Graduate School of Geography
Clark University
Worcester, MA

November 14, 2006
Human World

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