Nature’s Fortune | Mark R. Tercek

Summary of: Nature’s Fortune: How Business and Society Thrive By Investing In Nature
By: Mark R. Tercek

Introduction

Dive into the world of ‘Nature’s Fortune: How Business and Society Thrive By Investing In Nature’ by Mark R. Tercek, a book that explores the ingenious concept of harnessing nature’s own infrastructure to address humanity’s needs. You will discover how nature already offers many services that our human-made infrastructure aims to replicate. Throughout the book, you will learn about the distinctions between the nature-provided green infrastructure and human-constructed gray infrastructure, the increasing trend of businesses investing in environmental protection for economic reasons, and how green infrastructure serves multiple purposes with unique benefits.

Infrastructure for Our Needs

The book highlights how human-made infrastructure is viewed as the perfect solution to combat nature’s challenges. It discusses how infrastructure provides access to various services, such as clean water through sewage and filtration plant and shielding against droughts and floods using dams and levees. The book further highlights that nature has its way of tackling these challenges via green infrastructure. Green infrastructure breaks down contaminants, filters water, and stores excessive water for dryer times. Furthermore, coral reefs provide protection against flooding by breaking down waves before hitting the land. With this in mind, the book points out that our planet already has much of the infrastructures we need to thrive in place. Therefore, it is necessary to consider the green infrastructure while addressing challenges in a bid to protect and preserve the environment.

Investing in Nature

Large companies are increasingly investing in environmental protection due to economic and regulatory pressures. Over 400 of the largest American companies issued sustainability reports since 2013 and many have committed to mitigating their environmental impact. By investing in nature, some companies have even found business opportunities and cost savings. For example, instead of constructing a water treatment plant for $40 million, Dow Chemical created a wetland serving the same purpose for $1.4 million. In reaction to threats to their core business, such as Coca-Cola’s bottling plant causing community wells to dry up in India, the company heavily invests in water preservation and commits to becoming water neutral by 2020. Many companies also invest in nature to protect their most important ingredient, water, which is threatened by the decline of forests.

The Costly Gray Infrastructure vs. the Self-Renewing Green

Our country’s critical infrastructure, such as the levee system and wastewater facilities, received a D minus grade from the American Society of Civil Engineers. Gray infrastructure demands a significant amount of maintenance, construction, and complicated processes. New York faced costly water filtration regulations in 1989, which led to a successful environmental protection project in the Catskills. Green infrastructure, unlike gray infrastructure, can self-renew and does not require costly maintenance. The benefits of green infrastructure are clear as it can be far less expensive than gray infrastructure.

The Positive Effects of Green Infrastructure

Our constant attempts to control nature and build gray infrastructure have often worsened the very risks they were meant to reduce. Artificial flood protection systems like seawalls can redirect wave energy back into the water and cause damage to natural habitats. In contrast, green infrastructure like oyster reefs and floodplains occur naturally and do not harm surrounding ecosystems while also providing efficient protection against floods. Floodplains, in particular, are able to adapt to changing river patterns and were able to mitigate the 2009 flood in Monroe when a levee upstream burst and the excess water was redirected to a vast floodplain area. Therefore, we should prioritize the use of green infrastructure for long term and sustainable solutions to combat natural disasters.

The Multiple Benefits of Green Infrastructure

Green infrastructure, exemplified by the oyster reef, serves multiple purposes, including water filtration, habitat restoration, and recreational opportunities. Oyster reefs are crucial for water filtration, as each adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water per day. Investing in environmental protection, particularly habitat restoration, produces spillover effects for neighboring areas and local economies. For instance, fish populations doubled and local incomes from fishing increased in community-managed no-fishing areas in Fiji. Preserving nature also enhances our stress responses and allows us to enjoy recreational activities. Scientific studies reveal that interacting with nature reduces stress levels, with rural residents displaying lower stress levels than city dwellers.

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