The Power of Community

By Gretchen Daily | May 15, 2018

With the energy from the 2018 Symposium still fresh, I’d like to pause for a moment to appreciate our ever more amazing, diverse, and powerful community. About 400 participants from 40 countries joined us this year, and it was deeply inspiring to feel all the innovation and collaboration that we are driving together. Each year we grow not only in numbers, but in the depth and breadth of our knowledge – in dimensions of empathy and emotion as well as of intellect.

It is exhilarating to see how we can support one another in our shared quest of harmonizing people and nature; from opening new knowledge to applying it in scalable ways. We are drawing close to a universal language and approach for eliciting and integrating the contributions of nature to people in policy, finance, and management across the world, in all its diversity and complexity. On behalf of NatCap, I extend sincere thanks to all of you who attended or contributed to this year’s Symposium.

Sustainable development panel brings cross-sector interest Photo Credit: Casey Valentine

This year’s themes and discussions especially underlined the importance of our core partnerships and worldwide collaborators spanning hundreds of institutions. I am tremendously excited and honored to welcome the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) to the official NatCap core partnership. Having worked closely with CAS for the past ten years, I can say I have never encountered more dedicated and humble, expert and effective human beings. Together, we have traveled the great span of present-day China and, in conversation, through past dynasties and into China’s future. We have co-designed and refined many dimensions of NatCap science, software, and approaches – from zoning land across China for natural capital investment and creating a new national park system for biodiversity and ecosystem services to developing Gross Ecosystem Product as a metric for guiding massive investments in nature. With our collaborators at Xi’an Jiaotong University, we have evaluated the social and economic dimensions of environmental policies at household and community levels, giving special attention to securing livelihoods of the most vulnerable people.

The CAS team further illustrated their energy and commitment to the NatCap mission at the Symposium, bringing a large delegation of decision-makers from around China and a group of incredibly talented performers. If you weren’t able to see the performances live, I highly encourage you to watch the video on our YouTube page!

Excerpt from “A Peony Pavilion” Photo Credit: Steve Castillo

One of my favorite pieces, an excerpt from “The Peony Pavilion Garden” performed by Wu Lan and Li Langeng, begins with the line, “don’t waste the golden time.” As our world increasingly suffers the impacts of climate change, biodiversity loss, overpopulation, and other global environmental threats, it feels more and more important to make mindful use of every golden minute. At the Symposium, I saw our community doing just that. Throughout the week, I had the opportunity to speak with folks from all across the world who are implementing thoughtful, innovative approaches to ecosystem services science. From scientists to software engineers and communicators to implementers, we are all unified in our vision for a future where humans live in synergy with our natural environment.

On the last day of the Symposium, I walked away galvanized and determined. The Natural Capital Project approach is not only adaptable and accessible; it lays the foundation for the achievable. As we collectively move towards our goal of a more sustainable, livable planet, I encourage us all to remember the unique opportunity of each golden moment.

Gretchen Daily is the co-founder and Faculty Director of the Natural Capital Project at Stanford University.