What Has Nature Ever Done for Us? | Tony Juniper

Summary of: What Has Nature Ever Done for Us?: How Money Really Does Grow on Trees
By: Tony Juniper

Introduction

Embark on a fascinating journey exploring the often-overlooked bond between nature and economy through Tony Juniper’s ‘What Has Nature Ever Done for Us? How Money Really Does Grow on Trees’. This book summary introduces vital and intertwined themes of environmental, ecological, and economic systems, revealing the extensive services nature provides us for free, including soil, photosynthesis, biodiversity, pollination, water purification, and natural disaster protection. Delve into real-life examples and eye-opening case studies, and be prepared to develop a deeper appreciation of the natural world and rethink the way we treat our priceless environmental resources.

Nature’s Priceless Services

Nature provides an array of essential services that are often taken for granted and undervalued. From purifying water to providing medicines and pollinating crops, the benefits of nature are immense. However, the negative impact of human activity on the environment is gradually eroding these services. Science has also confirmed the link between green environments and wellness. It is high time businesses and governments recognize the economic and social benefits of nature’s services and take concrete steps to safeguard them.

Biosphere 2: A Model of Earth

Engineer and adventurer John Allen built Biosphere 2 as a replica of Earth to study how its complex systems work and interact. The facility, located near Tucson, Arizona, consists of scaled-down biomes, including rainforest, coral reef, mangrove wetlands, desert, savannah, farmland, and an urban setting. Biosphere 2 is home to over 3,800 kinds of plants and animals and was set up to provide eight people with air, food, water, waste recycling, work, and leisure from 1991 to 1993. Allen’s team designed the sealed structure of steel girders and 6,000 glass panels to replicate the Earth’s atmosphere. Biosphere 2 provided a treasure trove of scientific data, demonstrating how nature sustains a microcosmic society. By creating the model, Allen and his team demonstrated that Earth is atmospherically sealed and self-supporting, made up of systems that, when working correctly, can sustain a thoughtful, healthful way of life. Inhabitants of Biosphere 2 were the first to live in “another biosphere,” proving that the Earth behaves similarly, and emphasizing the importance of preserving our planet.

The Living World Beneath Our Feet

The significance of soil in our ecosystem and why we need to protect it.

The world we live in consists of the biosphere, the lithosphere, and soil. Acting as the borderland between the two, soil is home to billions of inhabitants and is responsible for growing about 90% of humanity’s food and animal fodder. However, despite its immense importance, soil is often overlooked and mistreated. Intensive farming practices and mismanaged land use have turned soil into silt, leading to river pollution and global dust clouds.
Awareness of the economic value of nature is increasing, with a focus on protecting soil’s vital role. Soil collects carbon and purifies water, making it a critical element for environmental sustainability. Despite soil depletion, modern restoration efforts have been profitable and positive. In Africa, educating farmers and cattle producers has improved yields and soil fertility, contributing to future food security.
In short, soil is a world unto itself and is essential to our survival. We must recognize its significance and protect it for generations to come.

The Power of Photosynthesis

Photosynthesis, the process of transforming light energy into chemical energy, has roots dating back to single-celled organisms that evolved to live in a carbon-rich atmosphere hundreds of millions of years ago. The cyanobacteria generated oxygen, leading to the development of simple plants which eventually gave rise to the vast plant kingdom. This revolution in plant growth laid the foundations for a settled society through managed plant growth or agriculture, which is now 40% of the planet’s primary production on land. While agriculture has improved human welfare, population growth and profit-seeking have led to misused and wasted fertilizers that have severe environmental consequences.

The Unseen Importance of Oysters, Pollinators, and Birds

Oysters, pollinators, and birds are essential to the well-being of our planet, yet their value is often overlooked. Oysters filter water and provide shelter for sea creatures, but their habitats are rapidly declining. Pollinators like bees and birds are responsible for $1 trillion of agriculture sales but are dwindling due to pesticide use. In India, the loss of vultures resulted in a public health crisis and a $30 billion economic loss. We must recognize the value of these creatures and take action to protect them.

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