TED Conversations

Sydni Rucks


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What are ecosystem services that you rely on everyday? Are you willing to pay for them?

Ecosystem services are what we gain from an ecosystem, be it medicines, clean water, or any cultural and spiritual benefits we get from nature. Ecosystem services are not specific to the science realm and they are open to interpretation based on our individual views. What ecosystem services do you value?

Although ecosystem services have monetary value, determining pricing has proven challenging. For example, every time you shop for produce, you can choose to support the ecosystem services offered by organic farming. There has been a boom in the organic foods market due to the ever-growing assumption that organic farming methods contribute to ecosystem services including increased pollination (bee populations are higher due to larger production of flowers on organic farms), increased biodiversity, natural pest control, and natural soil fertility. Are these methods worth the extra cost at the grocery store? What factors do you consider when making your choice between conventionally and organically grown produce? What are ways to promote organic farming, or more generally the valuation of ecosystem services, so that more people will be inspired to pay for the benefits?


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    Apr 27 2012: I think, as others have pointed out, that the term "ecosystem service" is a bit vague to describe what seems to be the main topic here: food production. Just for contrast, the first ecosystem that came to my mind that is "of service" was the micro-organisms that line our bodies, protecting us from infection...(this is my favorite ecosystem if I had to pick one!)

    I'm not quite sure what you mean by paying for ecosystem services in the broad sense since an ecosystem is not a "thing" and I'm not really sure how one can be controlled in order to be distributed for purchase. I will stick with my original example and say that yes, I am willing to pay for the probiotic effects of yogurt! (And do whenever I have to take antibiotics).

    I think that we all need to get out of the "buying" mindset. I think our hands are tied by our economy and that we can do more than choose the best option at the supermarket. But I agree with you about the importance of ecosystems: We derive many benefits from other species and would benefit from everyone being more aware of them :)

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