Ecosystems and the stories we tell ourselves

Iain Woodhouse, a colleague at the University of Edinburgh, has produced a charming short video to explain the concept of ecosystem services to his son:

Take a look at the video, it makes some great points in only 90 seconds.

Go on, watch it now, before you read on. (It does have sound!)


In its way it’s a charming story and makes clear something that all too often is ignored or confused.

But what I find really interesting are the stories that underlies this short video. One of them is story of money:

And the problem is, because everyone gets [the goods and services of ecosystems] for free, we take it for granted. Now the [biosphere] is going a little bit wonky…

And the economic framing continues.

But what other stories could the video have picked up? Perhaps:

And the problem is, because we haven’t agreed how to share [the goods and services of ecosystems] fairly, the [biosphere] is going a little bit wonky…

Or:

And the problem is, because we’ve been ignoring where [the goods and services of ecosystems come from], we haven’t been looking after the land and sea properly. Now the [biosphere] is going a little bit wonky…

Or:

And the problem is, because we’ve been persuaded to buy so much stuff we don’t really need, the [biosphere] can’t cope and is going a little bit wonky…

Each of these stories, would I think, lead us to think about the problem and how we might solve it in very different ways.


To be fair, Iain raises the issue of economics in his blog post about the video; and I think he and Sandy have done a great job! Sandy does the voiceover and signs off with:

I hope [the biosphere] is still working when I grow up.

So do I Sandy, so do I.