Association of State Wetland Managers - Protecting the Nation's Wetlands.

The Compleat Wetlander: Wildlife, Wetlands and Life—or the Catastrophic Consequences of Ignoring those Pesky Externalities

“Without your community and your family you would not be happy
Without nature you would not be alive”
Pavan Sukhdev, The Economics of Ecosystems and
Biodiversity (TEEB) Study Leader

Last week a report was published through the United Nations Environment Program on the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity highlighting the increasing attention corporations are giving to the importance of biodiversity.

Biodiversity refers to the importance of having many kinds of animals and fish and plants both locally and globally.  The report is interesting because it documents that many corporations are paying more attention to wildlife richness.  They are doing so because they are discovering that the decline and loss of species can lead to the decline and loss of profits .
This is relevant to wetlands because roughly 50% of the threatened and endangered species in the United State are partially or wholly dependent on wetlands to exist For example in Illinois there are 30 birds, 8 mammals, and 138 plants dependent on wetlands that are threatened or endangered.

The biodiversity report is good news, because the survival of mankind is dependent on abundant and diverse wildlife and plants.

The bad news is that people have been raising concerns like these for a long time and they’ve been ignored.  Here is just one example:

Without bees, Albert Einstein said, “man would only have four years of life left.”

In 1923, Rudolf Steiner, a scientist, philosopher & social innovator, predicted that in 80 to 100 years honeybees would collapse. His prediction came true in 2005 and 2006 when Colony Collapse Disorder was documented throughout the United States.  Bees started disappearing in mass numbers from their hives for no apparent reason.

Even though it’s not making the news, it’s still happening.  Now though, the reason it’s happening is clearer.  It’s not just one thing alone; it’s one thing after another.  Too many pesticides kill or confuse bees so they don’t return to the hive.  Too much land covered with just one kind of plant like potatoes or almonds that only bloom for a couple of weeks a year, not long enough to feed a hive.  Too much stress from being transported from one farm field to another throughout the growing season and so on.

I learned all this last week when I saw “Queen of the Sun” a documentary about the honey bees and what is happening to them

I went because we’ve recently acquired two bee hives for our back yard.  Since we did this my gardening goals have changed.  I plant white flowers because they attract the bees.  I pay attention to when plants bloom and choose flowers and trees so that there is something blooming from early spring to late fall to provide food for the bees.

It’s not just the bees anymore.  I plant flowers in the vegetable garden that provide the ‘good’ predator insects something to eat when there aren’t ‘bad’ insects around to munch on.  I plant companion plants beside each other.   My garden has become a community.  I wasn’t really thinking about biodiversity.  It’s just one small backyard.  But I was thinking about balance.

I find most traditional economic theory falls far short of balance.  This is because economics does not consider community or family or nature.  These are ‘externalities’.   They don’t require consideration because they’ve been deemed unimportant to economic growth and prosperity.   I’ve long suspected that ‘externalities’ is really a code word for ‘too difficult to figure out.’

The plight of honey bees is not unique.  Throughout the world, wildlife is threatened by a multiplicity of stresses imposed by human civilization.

2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity  It is past time to take action to preserve the future of civilization by preserving biodiversity.

For more on The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity checkout the executive summary at or the main page  for the report with links the full report, videos and other related information at information at The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodivesrity

Jeanne Christie

This entry was posted in biodiversity, environment, wetlands and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *