Chapter 1: An introduction to the economic issues involved in sustaining biodiversity and ecosystem functions
Both the stock of the world’s biological diversity and the state of its ecosystems are major influences on the ability of humankind to sustain and increase its well-being. They are major determinants of the availability of commodities essential to human life, such as food and water, and they are also, to a large extent, interdependent. However, it is not only the supply of necessities which is affected by the state of biodiversity and ecosystems. Also the availability of many non-essentials that add to the quality of human life is directly or indirectly dependent on the state of biodiversity and ecosystems. Human societies are embedded in ecological systems which they have been altering for many millennia. Even before agriculture commenced about 9000 years ago, humans were both altering natural ecosystems to increase their well-being and adapting their economic activities to varied local and environmental conditions. These processes gathered considerable momentum following the commencement of agriculture and its geographical spread. Major acceleration occurred in humankind’s ability to control (‘and conquer’) nature following the Industrial Revolution, which began in Europe: processes set in motion by this revolution (mainly increasing reliance on the application of advances in science and technology and associated capital accumulation for achieving economic growth) have (and continue to have) major impact on the state of the globe’s biodiversity and ecosystems.