The weblog of The Nature Conservancy recently asked a very timely and critical question to its followers: What should we call what nature provides us?
The topic is a result of a growing uneasiness with the “term de jour” i.e. ‘ecosystem services’. Many feel that this term is either not clear, not understood, undermines the intrinsic value of nature or is simply technical and uninspiring.
In recent years eyes4earth.org has posted its own related research on what the general public understands by the term ‘ecosystem services’ . See Part 1- Brisbane & Part 2 – TGL Festival for short video interviews. The responses have been humbling. It appears there is a general lack of public awareness of what ecosystem services are or could mean. Many interviewees interpreted the term as being akin to ‘environmental services’, i.e. the services which we as humans do to enhance or clean up our natural environment.
Is it a real problem if the general public doesn’t share the same understanding of the term ‘ecosystem services’? Some might argue that the ‘target market’ for communicating an understanding of ‘ecosystem services’ was for government, policy-makers and business who tend to formulate decisions according to defined and ingrained socio-economic criteria. In this sense, maybe ‘ecosystem services’ speaks their language. On the other hand, if the public – us as constituents and consumers – are not aware of the importance of ecosystem services and are not demanding their inclusion in policies, will anybody (e.g. government or business decision-makers) be willing to listen or act?