I’ve spent the past week or so watching red-winged blackbirds, mallards, painted turtles, green frogs, bullfrogs, water striders, water beetles, and much much more come to life at a small pond on our property in Williston. My kids and their friends from the neighborhood spent much of last Saturday and Sunday in little paddle boats floating about in the pond catching leeches. I spent Thursday morning on our deck, switching between writing a paper and looking through my binoculars at the painted turtles and green frogs. Aimee and I are enjoying the pond more than we thought we would. And I bet it’s true for our kids as well. It’s certainly true that I had no idea my kids would get pleasure out of catching leeches.
The pond on our property does more than just entertain us and provide my kids with leeches. It harbors biodiversity, obviously. But it provides an important service for our neighborhood as a storm water catchment. As you probably know, some of the faculty in our Environmental Program and the Gund Institute for Environment are world leaders in this area of scholarship – on the benefits provided by nature.
Rachelle Gould is a rising star in this area of scholarship (if she’s not already a star). Just last week, she had a novel paper published in the journal Ecosystem Services that I would encourage all of you to read. The paper points out that while “Ecosystem Services” attract lots of attention, the Cultural Ecosystem Services that nature provides have largely been ignored. Her paper proposes three new “Cultural Ecosystem Services,” based on empirical data from Hawaii. Those three services are:
Ingenuity: ecosystems aid in developing innovative ideas, approaches, or practices
Life teaching: an ecosystem’s provision of opportunities for learning life lessons and personal values
Perspective: ecosystems’ helping people to gain perspective on their place in the world, to see where they fit, or to "put things back in perspective"
The paper concludes “The benefits of creativity, perspective, and life learning arose repeatedly in our open-ended questioning and find nuanced support from a long history of scholarly work. We hope that naming them will encourage innovation in how to characterize and subsequently incorporate them into studies and practitioner efforts. The ultimate goal of ES work is to allow decision-making based on more complete information; we argue that, when the three new bodies of meaning we suggest are included, the information provided will be just a little more complete.” I absolutely agree.
On a completely unrelated note, I’m really enjoying the Senior Thesis and Honors Thesis presentations I’ve been to so far, and I’m really looking forward to upcoming ones. I’m trying to get to as many of them as I can.
Happy Friday. I’ll be sure to let you know how many leeches my sons catch this weekend.