4 RETURNS FROM LANDSCAPE RESTORATION - A systemic and practical approach to restore degraded landscapes

Why is it so important to restore degraded landscapes? It’s actually very simple. We rely on healthy ecosystems to provide us with our food, water, clean air, climate stability, social and economic wealth; even our happiness and well-being. We only have to look at history to see the devastating consequences of not valuing or understanding ecosystems: whole civilizations have vanished after overexploiting their natural resources. Fortunately however, there are also civilizations who have learned to develop a symbiotic relationship with nature – and thrived – by restoring instead of destroying.

Rapid global population growth in the last two centuries has caused the depletion of one quarter of the land surface on Earth as its natural resources have been used to support the unprecedent-ed demand for sustaining human life and advances in technology. However, the scale and speed at which change has been inflicted on the environment since the 1950s is the most profound in the history of humankind; a phenomenon leading scientists call the Great Acceleration.

Many of the services nature provides humankind – so-called ecosystem services – are free of charge and therefore form no part of our current economy that is based on manufactured capital. This comes at the price of: the massive loss of biodiversity, soil erosion and degraded landscapes. As shown historically, human life depends on ecosystems services. As business and ecosystems are inextricably linked, landscape conservation and restoration should be key to our economy. Yet interventions to date focus only on impact reduction.

It’s time for a new approach. Slowly but surely the world’s leaders are beginning to realize that restoring ecosystem functions restores the economy. In fact, restoration is vital to reversing the depletion of natural capital: an approach that has thus far been underutilized and underfunded. How-ever, we urgently need the power of the private sector in order to scale-up and accelerate landscape restoration. We need new business models and operations, and a shift to long-term thinking if this industry is to become a viable investment proposition.

The science is in place, the technology available, and nancial resources accessible: the time is ripe to create a landscape restoration industry. But for it to succeed, there must be greater involvement by business and investors, an orchestrator for all the different stake-holders – and a realistic long-term approach. Commonland aims to build trust and connec-tions, create engagement, and keep key partners inspired to harvest the results of their investments over the long-term.

André Brasser and Willem Ferwerda
Commonland Foundation
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