Ecosystem services: From Eye-Opening Metaphor to Complexity Blinder

Norgaard, R.B. 2010. "Ecosystem services: From eye-opening metaphor to complexity blinder". Ecological Economics. 69 (6): 1219-1227.

Norgaard's paper is a must read for any discussion about ecosystem services. The mix of both science-based and philosophical/holistic concept-type premises presented will, I think, appeal to both the lay readers and scientists alike. For the most part the narrative is surprisingly digestible, although complex, reflecting the cross-pollination of his focus in economics, agricultural economics, and his tenure in UC Berkeley's Energy and Resources Group.

The paper is both an overview of the evolution of ecological services as a "sales" concept for the larger public to become invested in the seriousness of global ecological degradation, and Norgaard's pitch for an entirely new paradigm for handling ecological restoration on a planet scale. Norgaard touches on a number of topics, including the impact of the [supra-national collaboration that resulted in the] Millennium Ecosystem Assessment findings of 2005; a bolstering of current ecological data as being incredibly rich, with the assertion that it is not the science that is weak, but rather the inappropriate attempt to apply this science to a model (Payment for Ecosystem Services) that it simply does not fit into; the need for global organizations to govern, measure and create equity between the developed and undeveloped worlds in the deployment of restoration; and the reinforcement of the oft forgotten fact that "science coevolves with the dominant forms of social organization" - and in so doing cautions us to not create a paradigm for ecological restoration that is steeped with the perceptions and power plays that created the predicament that we currently find our Earth in.

Norgaard touches on a multitude of issues, and in doing so illustrates the incredible complexity of the issue of ecological restoration. Admittedly I am still processing the article, and have not yet come up with criticisms, except perhaps the paternal ring of the writing style. I am hoping that others will read this an add some objectivity via criticism.

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