Much has been written about why we wish to protect nature. The initial motivation for conservation was ostensibly for nature's own sake. Around the 1980s, the concept of ecosystem services began to highlight ways in which we depend on nature, as a motivation for conservation. Ecosystem services and similar concepts now dominate the discourse. But do they adequately describe our relationship with nature?
Sharachchandra Lele (or Sharad, for short) is Distinguished Fellow in Environmental Policy & Governance at the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology & the Environment (ATREE) in Bangalore. After starting his career as an engineer, he went on to earn a PhD in Energy & Resources at UC Berkeley. Since then he has held positions as Senior Research Associate at the Pacific Institute, and fellowships or visiting fellowships at Harvard, Stanford and Cambridge Universities.
Links to resources:
Nature's Services: Societal Dependence on Natural Ecosystems - Seminal 1997 book edited by Gretchen Daily, to which Sharad refers in the discussion. He asked me to point out that he had mistakenly said this was by Daily and Paul Ehrlich. In fact, it builds on some earlier work by Ehrlich and others but Ehrlich was not an author. The book focuses mostly on ecosystems' regulatory services.
Millennium Ecosystem Assessment - Key assessment of "the consequences of ecosystem change for human well-being" conducted from 2001 to 2005 and involving more than 1,360 experts worldwide.
Untangling the Environmentalist's Paradox: Why Is Human Well-being Increasing as Ecosystem Services Degrade? - A key 2010 article in Bioscience, brought up by Sharad in our discussion.
Environment and well-being: A Perspective from the Global South - A recent opinion piece that Sharad published in New Left Review, which lays out many of his views in detail.
From wildlife-ism to ecosystem-service-ism to a broader environmentalism - A 2021 summary of Sharad's thoughts on ecosystem services, this time in a peer-reviewed journal.
02:46: Sharad's career change, from engineering to conservation and related topics
07:37: The nuanced and complex history of ecosystem services concepts
16:26: Trade-offs between ecosystem services; ecosystem disservices
23:21: How does biodiversity fit into a framework for viewing our relationship with nature?
30:15: Why are human development indicators improving while environmental indicators worsen?
37:40: What should be our motivation for conserving nature?
48:02: Are generic frameworks really useful to describe our relationship with nature?