Since ages, Human beings have been exploiting Nature to fulfill their corporate propositions and utilizing them for their economic advantage - Natural Capital introduction. The natural resources, which are extracted from nature, the supply of these resources and the services that they provide is the Natural Capital for us. These natural products are obtained without involving any monetary obligations. The annual income, which is yielded from the natural resource is called as Natural Income, (Santa-Barbara Family Foundation, 2003), for e.g. Timber, Ores, Fishes and plants, respectively but it is also true that its continuous use declines its capacity to yield same amount of National income.
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Not only we get the precious wealth to adorn ourselves but hidden within the nature also are the resources which are indirectly saving our lives and making them safe and sound. These resources also help in the prevention of soil erosion, trees control the floods by absorbing the rain water in the roots, prevent soil erosion, the several habitats abounding in the greener areas of our Earth’s crust gives us food and medicine. Over and above they are the key component of hydrologic cycle, gives aesthetic enjoyment and spiritual inspiration. These functions in the nature are known as Ecosystem functions and the services, which they provide us, are also called as ecosystem services.
There are four types of services, which we get from natural capital: Provisional Services, Regulating Services, Cultural Services and Supporting Services. Provisional services like Timber, fishes etc, Regulating Services decompose organic wastes and clean the air by oxidation, etc., Cultural Services are the spiritual and aesthetic feeling and all the enjoyment and fun which we get from nature, and last all the natural resources which acts as a regulating mechanism for other ecosystem service. Inside the earth, out in the sky, in the water, and inside the air, hidden beneath are the beautiful gifts of nature, which are indirectly helping human beings. Streams clean the water, earthworms aerate our soils, trees give us life by churning out oxygen, and are also the source of medicines etc. and etc. What is amazing is that these services are provided free by the ecosystem, if we allow some parts of landscape to function alone naturally.
Man has failed to recognize the intrinsic value of the nature. It is widely said we won’t realize the value of ecosystem until we lose it. For e.g. in New York, the city had estimated the expenses to the amount of $8 billion for the water- treatment plant but spent $1.5 billion when water catchment area was reforested (Lowmen, 2006). We strip of the topsoil to which we attach no value in which the crops grow. We can’t t survive without soil, can we? Whatever soil is left gets toxic due to mining. We have to bear huge amount of costs, if we continue to deteriorate the natural systems, in order to repair these services, which are vital to our survival.
Global ecosystems provide services of value $36 trillion per year as estimated by economists and biologists. (Lowman, 2006) If used and degraded at the present rates, there will be hardly any left for next generation. So, it becomes inevitable for us to prevent the plummeting of natural stock as the services offered by it are not only life giving but are also critical to our prosperity.
The interdependence between the man-made capital and the preservation and supply of natural capital is recognized by the Natural Capitalism. Thus natural capitalism should be valued, as all other forms of capital are valued. Ensuring a regular supply of valuable natural resources to a growing population is not only a wise investment but also a vital need in the coming years. By doing so, scarcity can be averted, resources can be preserved and solid foundation for social development can be provided.
Hawken and Lovins in their book Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution has suggested four strategies for the maintenance and preservation of natural resources. According to them the cornerstone of natural capitalism is increasing resource productivity. It means, to obtain same benefit from a product with less use of material and energy, which in turn has three important benefits. It decreases the pollution, slowdown the depletion of resources and also increase the employment worldwide. The results are of which are amazing as the costs for business and society is lowered. The social and environmental harm is due to the uneconomical and unethical use of human and natural resources. The application of increasing resource productivity can halt the deterioration of the natural resources and prevent the loss of natural living systems. Next strategy is Biomimicry, which means to reduce the waste by redesigning the production systems. The systems are redesigned to imitate the ecological and natural processes in which materials are continuously reused in cycles with no wastes. Industries use biodegradable compounds, which also eliminates the danger of pollution and toxicity. Another strategy suggested by them is Service and Flow Economy in which services are obtained by consumers by renting or leasing goods rather than buying. This calls for a shift to economy of service and flow from economy of goods and purchases. Here product is an asset which means product is a means and not an end. Both the manufacturer and the customer benefit from it as there is minimum use of material, durability of product is maximum and enhanced easy maintenance. This restructures the economy where customers value needs are met better, improves the resource productivity, which in turn leads to the protection of the ecosystems. This service economy also increases employment and stabilizes the business cycle. Last strategy propounded by them is Investment in natural capital. Its aim is to reverse the trend of destruction of our planet by reinvesting in maintaining, rejuvenating and widening the stocks of natural capital. This will lead to plenty of natural and ecological services and wealth. All the four strategies are interdependent and interwoven. They together will lead to innumerable incentives and opportunities in all the sectors of economy and reduce the environmental damage on the whole.
The time has come that humans should start realizing the value of natural resources before it is too late. Ecological awareness has to be created to protect the natural world in order to increase the natural capital, which is essential for our survival. It is said that all the nations and communities have to adopt Natural Capitalism because those who won’t adapt, won’t survive and if they won’t adapt, we won’t survive.
1. Hawken Paul, Lovins Amory & Lovins H.L. Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution, naturalcapitalism.org Retrieved on June 6, 2007 from W.W.W: http://www.natcap.org/sitepages/art76.php
2. Lowmen Meg (Last modified: January 01, 2006) NATURE’S SECRETS: Natural
capitalism — becoming aware of nature’s bank account HeraldTribune.com Retrieved on
June 6, 2007 from W.W.W: http://www.heraldtribune.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060101/COLUMNIST18/601010795
3. Parkins Keith (2000) Natural Capitalism Retrieved on June 6, 2007 from W.W.W: http://home.clara.net/heureka/gaia/nat-cap.htm
4. Santa-Barbara Family Foundation (2003) Natural Capital and Income, sustainablescale.org Retrieved on June 6, 2007 from W.W.W: http://www.sustainablescale.org/ConceptualFramework/UnderstandingScale/BasicConcepts/NaturalCapitalandIncome.aspx