Five Keys to Revaluing Our Ecosystems
Rob Garris

Rob Garris Former Managing Director, Bellagio Study and Conference Center

February 06, 2014

Five Keys to Revaluing Our Ecosystems

Rob Garris

Rob Garris Former Managing Director, Bellagio Study and Conference Center

February 06, 2014

The newly released Rockefeller Foundation and Economist Intelligence Unit report, “Revaluing Ecosystems: A Vision of Better Future” presents insights that confront and reimagine the urgent, timeless question of how we can all better value the ecosystems on which we all depend.

After exhausting or contaminating our resources, we either move on or develop costly technical solutions.

All too often, individuals and business follow a predictable pattern in relation to our ecosystems and resources—after either exhausting or contaminating them, we either move on or develop costly technical solutions.

Quito, the capital city of Equador almost made this mistake in the 1990’s: The Guayllabamba river valley, where Quito lies, was stripped of its trees, with no capacity to hold or filter water. This resulted in muddy, contaminated water rushing down the river valley, flooding streets and factory floors. The valley was at a crisis point, and the city began considering the construction of expensive water filtration plants.

Deforestation between 2000 and 2012

Fortunately, with the help of stakeholders such as the Nature Conservancy, Quito’s citizen, business, and political leadership realized that there was a better way to access clean water and would preserve the livelihoods of local employees and farmers in the river valley. Through a water trust, the city and several of its major businesses, including a major beer brewer and a water bottler, began paying farmers on the hillsides upriver to adopt greener planting and tillage practices. Within a year, stronger root systems of trees and plants on hillside filtered water on a regular basis, and held water back for slow release when there were heavy rains. More judicious use of fertilizers kept the water system clean, and everyone who drew sustenance or wealth from the river valley eventually came to benefit from the financial relationship between Quito’s people and businesses and the hillside farmers.

To promote more innovative thought and action on behalf of the ecosystems that sustain us, World Resources Institute and the Rockefeller Foundation convened leading actors in industry, government, civil society and the academy at our conference center in Bellagio, Italy last November. Working with the Economist Intelligence Unit and Forum for the Future, we structured discussions through futures-oriented scenarios, asking participants to identify the major trends that will shape human interactions with the environment and to flag barriers and the points of potential dynamism in those trends.

Over the course of our conversations in Bellagio, five critical points of emphasis emerged, each critical to addressing the trade-offs, innovations, and barriers that we all face—or will soon:

  • Decreasing poverty combined with increasing urbanization
  • Increasing eco-system shocks that will drive greater human awareness
  • Innovations in corporate reporting that increasingly account for the value of natural resources
  • Data-empowered decision making and communication that dramatically increases our ability to monitor, understand and strategize human interactions with ecosystems
  • Local, decentralized innovation in the absence of global action

Check out the report for more information on this new vision: