What's the point of saving a species? Why we need to conserve species and learn from them to improve our economy and our livelihood

Every person, regardless of who you are, has at least four basic needs:

Photos: Deepti Bansal Gage/ George Washington University

Do you ever stop to think about how the nourishing food on your plate was grown or how the medicine in your cabinet was discovered to cure your ailments? These things, which we all need to live, came to be thanks to various creatures that otherwise may get overlooked or which you might, without thinking, smoosh. These resources and creatures are called “natural capital” with significant ecosystem, and even economic, value to us. Through studying creatures — like bugs in trees, or a bee in greenhouse, or plankton in the water, or leeches in a swamp — we may learn how to: continue to have tools to build warm shelter, better combat hunger, purify water, improve our health, and combat the effects of severe climate events, all in natural ways. If you’re totally lost, keep reading. It’s about to get clearer.

Pick a topic of interest to you below and learn about a creature that is vital to that topic, our economy, our ecosystem, and you:

They all matter...

A tree, a bee, a plankton, and even a leech all matter for your livelihood. In order to guarantee that we can continue to live healthy, happy lives, it is incredibly important to question our understanding of the world and the science behind the resources we need. In this inquisitiveness we not only uncover issues that afflict the resources we need to survive, but we also learn how to cope with ecological grief and discover what it takes to protect these resources for our continued existence or how to adapt moving forward. This information can then be used to help inform lawmaking in order protect vital natural capital. So next time, before you discount a creature you see no benefit to having around, think about its importance to our economy, our ecosystem, and you.

Special thanks to the specialists interviewed for this article: Chris Egolf, Forester; Vince Burkle, Indiana Department of Natural Resources Compliance Officer; Clifford Sadof, Purdue University Professor; Brock Harpur, Purdue University Assistant Professor; Adam Smith, The George Washington University Assistant Professor; Amanda Liczner, York University Ph.D. Candidate; Anna Phillips, Smithsonian Institute Researcher


Photos: Deepti Bansal Gage