What Has Nature Ever Done for Us
Matilda Zatorski reviews Tony Juniper's new book, What Has Nature Ever Done for Us?
What Has Nature Ever Done for Us?
Author: Tony Juniper
Pub: Profile Books Ltd
After hearing ex-WRAP bod Phillip Ward at the LARAC Conference talk about Tony Juniper’s What Has Nature Ever Done for Us? and urge everyone with an interest in his or her environment to read it, I felt compelled to order a copy.
As the former head of Friends of the Earth, Juniper is well known in the environmental field and well respected. Having posed the titular question, Juniper proceeds to explain exactly what nature does for us and what happens when man takes it for granted and interferes.
The vulture is a case in point. It’s not one of nature’s best looking or most endearing animals, perhaps, but one that clears up carcasses that would otherwise be left to rot. However, when Indian farmers began using anti-inflammatory drugs on their cattle, the vultures started to die. This resulted in more wild dogs coming to feast on the decaying bodies, which led to an increase in dogs biting humans and a surge in rabies in the country. Suddenly the vultures seemed a lot more attractive.
And the book is full of tales such as this.
But what concerns Juniper most, and what is so fascinating for the reader, is how much our interventions cost us economically. The subtitle of the book is ‘How money really does grow on trees’. The increase in rabies in India, for example, cost the government an estimated $30 billion (£18 billion) in healthcare costs, while, elsewhere, when a government decided to cut down mangrove trees – nature’s natural defence against tidal surges – to build £2-million worth of shrimp farms, it resulted in a £200-million sea wall having to be built when a tsunami hit.
But it’s not all doom and gloom.
There’s the research that shows a healthy natural environment is very beneficial in terms of physical and mental well-being. Juniper cites research showing that the speed of recovery in hospitals is faster when patients can see greenery and that people living near green space rated their health as better than those who didn’t. There is lower blood pressure in dental patients, fewer reports of ill health in prisoners, increased self-discipline in inner-city girls and reduced mortality in elderly people with more exposure to nature.
This book is a call to arms to protect our environment – for our health, our sanity and our pockets – to really calculate the cost of dirt and swamps and bogs before utilising them for short-term gains.
It’s also a book that has been on shelves for a year already. Thanks, Phillip, for adding it to mine.