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Linking Future Ecosystem Services and Future Human Well-being

Colin D Butler, Australian National University
Willis Oluoch-Kosura, University of Nairobi

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Abstract

Ecosystem services are necessary, yet not sufficient for human well-being (however defined). Insufficient access to the ecosystem provisioning service of food is a particularly important factor in the loss of human well-being, but all ecosystem services contribute in some way to well-being. Although perhaps long obvious to ecologists, the links between ecosystems and aspects of human well-being, including health, have been less well understood among the social science community. This situation may now be starting to change, thanks in part to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA). Causality between ecosystem services and well-being is bidirectional; it is increasingly clear that functioning societies can protect or enhance ecosystem services, and accordingly, that societies with impaired well-being (best documented in the case of chronic diseases such as malaria and HIV/AIDS) can also experience a related decline in ecosystem services.



The future state of human well-being and of ecosystem services is more than the co-evolution of these two fundamental elements. Human well-being also depends, critically, upon the human institutions that govern relationships between human individuals and groups, and also between humans and ecosystem services.



The scenarios working group of the MA found that human well-being is highest in the Global Orchestration scenario, which assumes the fastest evolution of beneficial institutions, and is lowest in the Order from Strength scenario. Human well-being was found to be intermediate in the other two scenarios (Adapting Mosaic and Techno-Garden) even though these scenarios share a much greater recognition of the importance of ecosystem services to human well-being.

Key words

cognitive potential; conflict; ecosystems; health; human well-being; hunger; nutrition; scenarios; surprise
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087