Next time you sit around your dinner table, think about the resources involved getting every element of your meal in front of you. Wind power or bees pollinated the plants which then grew to provide your salad with all the fixings that is held in a bowl. That bowl could possibly have been produced with energy from wind turbines or hydroelectric power. Any meat on your plate was fed by plants that grew in soil. This soil was supplied by nutrients from nitrogen fixing bacteria and watered by rainstorms. Water in your glass, made from sand mechanically weathered from rocks, could have been filtered by a natural wetland.
For this dinner to be complete, the food and dishes have to be placed on a table where you sit in a chair. A wooden table or chair was probably produced in an old growth hardwood forest which took hundreds of years and many nutrients to grow. Finally, transportation had to get all of these elements to your dining room in order for you to consume them. This transportation used fossil fuels that took millions of years to produce by the earth's natural processes.
This illustration shows that the earth has many more functions and services than the majority of people realize. All of these naturally produced and free services are considered ecosystem services. A few more examples of these services include pollination of crops, renewal and production of soil nutrients, purification of air and water, and natural production of fish, fuels, and other products used in industry.
By harnessing these ecosystem services, entire cities can filter sewage through natural processes and save billions of dollars in the process. A great example is from the Big Apple. Water that was supplied to New York City was top quality until the Catskill Mountain Watershed became overwhelmed with agricultural and sewage run off. When water quality dropped, the city decided to look into having a water treatment plant built. Instead of spending $6-8 billion dollars to build a water treatment plant plus $300 million dollars every year for operating costs, the city decided to invest $600 million dollars into renewing the Catskill Mountain Watershed. By realizing the value of the ecosystem service that was naturally provided, New York City was able to spend a fraction of the cost to reach the same conclusion of a quality water supply.
New York City even took this renewal project a step further by raising an environmental bond issue to purchase land in the Catskill Mountain Watershed. This bond motioned to compensate landowners for not being able to develop on their land and pay for sewage system improvements. My modeling after this city, other municipalities can harness ecosystem services, save money, and ultimately protect the environment.
I had a really enjoyable time writing this post! I was inspired by the comic that I found. I placed the comic at the beginning of the post to draw readers in. To get people even more interested in the topic I was writing about, I illustrated the importance by relating it to an everyday activity that everyone takes part it. I think it was a great way for people to start thinking about all the ecosystem services that the earth provides and that we overlook.