Nature: a multi-purpose resource

February 24, 2022   ·   0 Comments

By Doug Skeates

As early European settlers arrived in North America their primary use for existing ecosystems was survival, hence the development of means to live on the land: production of food and homes. As time passed the needs of mankind changed until today nature is expected to meet materialistic needs, ie. purchasing power. Corporations evolved resulting in a major population move from lands producing goods to urban dwelling. The subsequent need becoming employment, with people to purchasing what they needed to sustain life though the basic need from natural ecosystems remained the same, food and water. On a commercial scale, the primary objective demanded by industry became profit: from the extraction of wood products, lumber and paper, and food.

From a societal perspective, natural ecosystems still contribute to meet basic needs.   One that is obvious to anyone visiting shopping centres where the first stop is the food counter where apples and oranges from orchard trees are available along with a wide variety of vegetables from farmlands. In addition to many species of fruit and vegetables there are varieties of nuts another products of trees. An interesting aspect beyond commercial retail distribution is the development of do-it-yourself systems.  As in war time Britain, the pandemic re-awakened society to the value of back yard gardens and encouraged development of professional farms where individuals or families could pick their own produce.

Similarly, much of the clothing industry is dependent on what nature can offer. Wool is harvested from sheep, silk from insects and leather from hides of cattle. Clothes on one’s back are particularly essential as the weather gets colder and snow covers the land.  But the real reminders of the value of nature are apparent as folk head into the rural landscape to enjoy colourful Maple foliage or to cut a Christmas tree and enjoy the peace and beauty. Other memorable products at this time of year are Maple sugar and bunches of pussy willows later in the spring.

One of the most valuable assets which nature supplies for mankind is water. Property owners are fully aware that this resource is essential for maintaining flower beds and vegetable gardens.Similarly farmers are familiar with the use of mulches to maintain moisture levels for production of crops. Sound ecological systems are important, protecting soil from the impact of heavy storms causing erosion. The primary forest product today is the contribution of standing trees to reduce CO2 emissions in the atmosphere. In addition, forests conduct a proportion of precipitation, root systems providing channels to aquifers, storage of ground water supporting plant growth throughout the growing season.

The most meaningful contribution to human life today is the wellbeing of the planet’s ecological balance. Mechanical clear cutting of forest trees for materialistic purposes and conversion of land use for development has left society vulnerable to serious degradation. Global warming has resulted in dramatic climate impacts such as drought conditions hence severe wildfires and destruction of entire communities. Changes have included flooding conditions and loss of crops and infrastructures such as highways and railways.

In addition, nature conserves the world’s fresh water, basic to support of wetlands and streams, rivers and lakes, the foundation for drinking, cooking and fish production. Water systems are also a prime support for generation of much of our electrical power and transportation of goods and manufactured goods.  Establishment of forest cover contributes to slowing desert encroachment and increasing ground water hence productivity of crops

A much-overlooked purpose of nature is quality of human life. If one looks out the window a common view is tree foliage, symbolic of peace and calm. A fond memory is an occasion when my brother and I took a picnic lunch to eat in the shade of a white pine forest with the sounds of breeze stirring the branches and enjoying the silence of the pine needle surface.  Folk can watch birds which have built their nests within the branches. Squirrels are in almost constant action as they move from one branch to another. A variety of forest animals can be observed. One can enjoy the beauty of nature which has much more to offer beyond what it contributes to the financial industry and the national economy.

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