Author: Tony Juniper

Publisher: Synergetic Press

ISBN: 978-0-907791-48-5,-ISBN 978-907791-47-8 - ISBN 0-907791-47-6

                                                Nature vs Economy- a Choice

If we could put a price label on the multitudinous benefits that human beings derive from Nature, what would it be? What would be the consequences if the various ways in which we are nurtured were to come to come to a sudden halt? Is our short term focus on economy making us blind to the fact that we live on only one planet with limited resources, albeit renewable?Is there a way in which we can modify our lifestyles so that we can reverse the damage we have already caused and leave a lighter footprint on the Earth? What is it that needs to be done and have any project/projects been initiated to achieve this end? If yes, how far have these projects succeeded? The answers to these and many other questions have been taken up for discussion in this comprehensive, erudite and extremely well written book.

The author begins with the description with the description of a unique project that was carried out in the eighties, called Biosphere 2. The number 2 was taken in deference to the fact that the Earth is the primordial Biosphere 1. A biosphere, as I understand it, is a self sustaining, self renewing ecosystem and the onus of disharmony falls unequivocally on each constituent. As a participant in the project averred “It wasn’t us and the environment, it was us in the environment’.

The Biosphere 2 project was an attempt to simulate a completely self-sustaining, self generating biome. A few scientists entered this artificially created biome which was then sealed. They were to stay there for two years. A participant describes his experience as follows:

It brought home the fact that humans don’t come in discrete packages that are outside of a biosphere. Your body understands that you shouldn’t damage the plants and you didn’t need to be reminded”.

Biosphere 1 has some fundamental similarities with Biosphere 2  It too, is a sealed system, its’ only major input is sunlight. This book is about Biosphere 1 and the components that mankind interacts with and how.
“There is nothing in Nature’s elaborate system which is not necessary, so to take one participant out of the dance, leads to the dance breaking down, and sooner or later, this will have a serious impact on the state of human health.” Prince Charles from the Foreword to this book.

Understandably the majority of human beings do not connect with the same gut-felt interconnection with everything around us as was experienced by the participants in the experiment above. This is where this book comes in.

One by one, the author lists what we have done and still are doing to the web of life that is Biosphere 1, estimating the damage done in dollars in each case. He starts with the soil and explains how it is getting degraded as a result of unregulated farming, cattle grazing and erosion. Nevertheless, he also mentions steps that have been and are being taken worldwide to arrest the depredation caused by a predominantly myopic fiscal mindset. The next natural resources to be discussed, are the oyster reefs, the rainforests, wetlands, mangrove forests and coral reefs among others, followed by pollinators, genetic eco-innovation of species, species extinction due to modern medicines, pest control and its side effects, experiments on the introduction of a species in a new environment and the results of the same, rainwater harvesting and plant plankton, the dwindling fishing industry and its causes, problems with oceanic acidification and upswing in the count of certain species as a result of food chain imbalances, insurance issues, national health and much, much more. The discussion of all these issues is very comprehensive and up to date, they also make very fascinating reading. Above all the author makes out a strong case for preserving wetlands and  mangrove forests, hitherto considered economically unproductive. putting a trillion dollar value to the many roles they play in Nature,free of cost. The kind of complex and subtle interconnections between species, that equip them to face Life, that have been reported in this book is truly mind boggling.

The author also describes many international projects between governments, many of which he himself has been  associated with. The last chapter is an impassioned appeal to people and governments to learn to see themselves as part of the ecosystem and not as disparate entities with financial interests. Progress in this direction by the corporate world to create a “bioeconomy” has also been reported.

This is a book to be read and reread. There is a phenomenal amount of very interesting and informative content to soak up and ruminate over. Many of the projects mentioned, can alsi be taken up by school and community groups. This book should be compulsory reading for all children above twelve, we owe them a proper understanding of the importance of living in collective harmony with all of Life and of the need to preserve its biodiversity.

Strongly recommended to one and all.

Follow Here To Purchase What Has Nature Ever Done for Us?: How Money Really Does Grow on Trees