By Beth Buczynski on October 11, 2011

The Nature Conservancy's Mark Tercek described how we can benefit from our natural surroundings in a keynote speech at the eco-conference.
1-800-RECYCLING.com staff writer Beth Buczynski is in Austin, TX, this week for the inaugural SxSW Eco conference, a three-day event celebrating all things sustainable and green. She is reporting her most interesting green finds here. View Beth's Day 1 and Day 2 finds as well!

For years, environmentalists have fought for policies and technologies that treat Mother Nature with more respect. But the fact remains that there are some people (and many companies) that simply cannot relate to nature on this personal level.

SxSW EcoDuring his SxSW Eco keynote presentation, Mark Tercek, President and CEO of The Nature Conservancy, showcased some interesting ideas about how to start communicating the value of nature conservation in a way that pertains to everyone.

Millions of people are moving up and out of poverty, Tercek claims, but they are becoming massive consumers of natural resources in the process. In order to be for conservation efforts to be more effective, the environmental movement needs to change its message from “Isn’t nature wonderful?” to “Isn’t nature valuable?" Doing this means demonstrating the direct relationships between nature and people, companies, government and especially youth.

Mark Tercek

Connecting nature to all people means acknowledging that conservation isn’t just good for Mother Earth in an abstract, altruistic way. Responsible management of natural resources is good for the economy as well. In the long run, protecting nature protects jobs, homes and the families that need them.

Connecting nature to all companies (even the big, greedy corporations) means demonstrating that nature and natural resources are the backbone of innovation. Without natural resources, it would be impossible for companies to provide the products and services their customers demand. Tercek said that it’s time for companies to learn, “If you want to run your business well, you need to understand and appreciate the natural capital on which it depends.”

Connecting nature to government means demanding smart policies and comprehensive regulations that require responsible use of natural resources over both the short and long term. Although it seems impossible, it’s time for environmentalists and companies to come together to talk about what a climate policy should look like. Smart infrastructure is essential for the deployment of clean technologies, and the government is the key to infrastructure.

Connecting nature to youth means making time for them to get out in nature. The current generation spends one-third less time outdoors than their parents. Technology is getting in the way of the outdoor play and adventure experiences that motivate kids to adopt a sustainable lifestyle as young adults. The Nature Conservancy’s L.E.A.F. program is just one way that kids are getting to experience nature in a positive way, and early studies have shown that more than 50% of its participants go on to major in science or environmental studies in college.

What makes nature valuable to you? Share your ideas and experiences in the comments section!

About the author

Beth Buczynski is a freelance copywriter and environmental journalist in the Rocky Mountain West. She specializes in providing online content and community mana[...]
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