Government experts and international scientists use the term ‘ecosystem services’. In Lewes we prefer ‘naturegain’ (with thanks to Dr. John Parry of Lewes Railway Land Wildlife Trust for coining this term). The meaning is the same: we are talking about what nature does for us and how we can help sustain those benefits.
Here is an example: All our water comes from Nature. But did you know that, in Lewes, we don’t get all our water from reservoirs and that much of our water actually comes from groundwater? This is because of our setting in the local chalk hills and is influenced by the way the chalk landscapes are managed. Rainwater percolates through the chalk rock and then comes out from springs or is pumped from bore holes. We pay the local water company because they provide the infrastructure and management (pumps and pipes and ‘stuff’), but behind the engineering, water is a product of naturegain.
Clean air is also a product of naturegain. It is natural processes – principally living plants – that produce the oxygen we breathe. Perhaps less obviously, the economy comes into it too! According to one of the Senior Managers at Deutsche Bank, ‘natural flows’ are a crucial part of the ‘invisible economy’. Without these natural flows – or naturegain – our economies would not function as we know them. However, its contribution is invisible because it is not given a monetary value by conventional economic measures and indicators. Naturegain is an ‘externality’, which means it is not accounted for in the economy.
And here’s the other side of the equation: past a certain point, we only gain from nature if nature gains from us. We need to invest in nature to get what we need from natural processes and systems. So naturegain includes the gain that nature gets from us! The problem here is that because it is invisible in the economy, normal economic progress and growth often leads to destruction or degradation of nature. This is a bit like cutting off the legs of a chair in order to put wood on the fire and then expecting to be able to sit on the chair to enjoy the warmth of the fire.
This slideshow explains how this new term – naturegain – can be used. Watch the presentation online, or download the ppt file.
For more information about ecosystem services, take a look at our resources page.