What Should We Call What Nature Provides Us?

Written by
Published on January 22nd, 2010  |  Discuss This Article  

The term de jour is “ecosystem services,” but that doesn’t really thrill anybody. What’s the phrase you think would express everything that nature gives to human beings — everything from agriculture to drinking water to clean air to recreation and aesthetic pleasure? Natural Capital? Nature’s Benefits? Natural Infrastructure? Natural Life-Support? Environmental Value? Tell us by leaving a comment — your idea could really help us convince others that nature is life itself!

Tags: , ,

203 Responses to “What Should We Call What Nature Provides Us?”

  1. Dale Steele says:

    I agree that ecosystem “services” doesn’t do a good job of alerting people to the essential nature of these functions. I’ll offer “ecosystem benefits or values” as a move in the right direction. Unfortunately it will probably take something with more incentive implied to get anyones attention.

    Maybe what we need is to convince people that humans are in fact very conservation reliant themselves and that without large scale and long range conservation efforts to preserve and restore essential ecosystem benefits we’ll be yet another species in need of heroic emergency room efforts to recover.

  2. Hemant Garg says:

    Nature is our mother who gives everthing to us for living and life.

  3. Hemant Garg says:

    Life and diginity.

  4. Sweetwater Tom says:

    Limited Planetary Ecosystem Resources sounds pretty good to me.

  5. Emmanuel says:

    we should call it “Nature’s Free Gift” because nature gave us these resources without seeking any payback…kind of like God

  6. Jay says:

    Life-support services

  7. Tiffany says:


  8. Kate says:

    Love the ‘life support’ idea…
    maybe ‘The stuff of life’?
    ‘Life’s Best Treasures’
    ‘A World of Resources’

  9. Dragonfly says:


  10. brittney says:

    Simply Earth
    Earth’s Bestow

    Athough the Earth hands out everything at need, people abuse it like a drug their addicted to. I wish and hope that everyone on this planet changes the ways they live to begin a new era of life; or else there is no life for anything.

  11. Christine Diepenbrock says:

    “Ecological endowment” would emphasize the need for careful stewardship. Just as contributions are made to a university’s endowment with the expectation that the university will use the contribution wisely, a contribution made by nature to the human race calls for careful stewardship. Also, one who contributes to a university will not do so again unless the funds were used wisely the first time–similarly, if we don’t care for the services and resources provided by the Earth now they could dry up and be inaccessible for future use.

  12. Joe Lapp says:

    (Looking for a short noun phrase, then?)

    life’s crucible
    life support system
    life sustenance
    human sustenance
    our body nature
    womb of humankind
    garden of life
    our common garden
    our garden nature

  13. Joe Lapp says:

    Taking a cue from Brittney:

    our garden Earth

  14. Lydia says:

    I like your term, “Natural Capital,” but I’ll add that there may be some thought about differences and refinement. Artists sometimes use the term “Natural Abundance” (Julia Cameron). Does that bring any terms to mind? “Natural Treasures?”

  15. Alice says:

    “A home to thrive in”

  16. Joe Lapp says:

    There seems to be a tradeoff between being precise and being inspirational.

    Also, unless we get really creative, I fear the prefix ‘eco’ would make the term inaccessible to those who aren’t already sold.

  17. eric says:

    interdependant connection.

  18. Kirk Bean says:

    Nature’s Endowment – a variant on Christine Diepenbrock’s suggestion. As Joe Lapp mentions above, I feel Nature has a more accessible “feel” than Eco-anything.

  19. Kirk Bean says:

    Oh, and if you want something that is more of a bumper sticker catch phrase for the work of the Conservancy, perhaps “Man’s stewardship of nature’s endowment” would work…

  20. pongogirl says:

    If humanity dies, she will live. If she dies, so does humanity.

  21. The Mark of Polo says:

    Life’s Supply

  22. Paul says:

    From My Body, To Your Plate

  23. MJ Graham says:

    The Essence of Life:
    Nature works to balance extremes in spectacular fashion and part of the wisdom shared from this is that life is perfect in its imperfection; that the essence of a full and good life is accepting the imperfections, continuing on with faith in the cycle’s progression.

  24. Paul M Vanecko says:

    “Nature is a giver, a true friend and a sustainer”

  25. José Roberto P Cavalcante says:

    Natureza como essencial uma Vida.

    Natureza dá a água, o ar, alimentos, fatores indispensáveis à vida. Portanto devemos preservá-la.

  26. cynthia says:

    Nature is Nourishment for our systems AND souls

  27. Dave says:

    I have a bit of a problem with the concept humans “consuming” nature’s “products & services”. Those are economics terms, but I’m not sure that our relationship to our environment is an economic relationship, or even a producer/consumer relationship. Certainly we consume things produced by other living things, and other living things consume things produced by us. But I wouldn’t say that a strawberry plant, for example, exists mainly to produce food for humans, or that humans exist mainly to produce carbon dioxide, fertilizer and seed dispersal for other living things such as strawberry plants. It seems that most living things are just trying to live and reproduce. I don’t think it is their intention to provide “services” for some other living thing. But I realize that we often feel the need to make comparisons in purely economic terms.

    I don’t have a term to offer at the moment, but if I ponder this article from William McDonough I might be able to come up with something – http://www.mcdonough.com/writings/address_woods.htm

    “When our designs support life, then growth is good. When our intention is to grow our children’s health or grow ecological recovery or grow socially beneficial prosperity, then we can go way beyond simply tinkering with a design paradigm that is antagonistic to life and begin to redesign our world so that it is in harmony with all of life. To get there we might ask ourselves, “What are the fundamental intentions of our species?””

    “The question really is “What do we want to grow?” Do we want to grow asphalt and destroy the planet or do we want to grow health and intelligence and a beneficial human footprint?”

    “I think perhaps it’s time to leave behind trying to be less bad and start trying to be 100 percent good. Rather than stewarding the planet into oblivion why not awake to our kinship with all life and leave behind a footprint we can delight in? Why not make the human influence on the planet restorative, vital and good? Why not follow the laws of nature so that we can generate fecundity and good growth? As an architect I have to follow the law of gravity. It’s not just a good idea, it’s the law. Understanding the laws of nature is fundamental to design.”

    So maybe instead of a term we could ask – “What do we want to grow?” And with that, the corresponding question “What are we currently growing?”

  28. Interesting points, Dave. I think the issue is — how does one sell others on the value of nature when they don’t immediately get it? One obvious tactic is to enumerate the ways nature benefits us — including baldly economic ones. I agree with your move to talk about the consequences of our actions and making conscious choices, but we need to start first with getting most people’s windshields clean about all that nature gives them. Most just don’t seem to know.

  29. J.E. Paterak says:

    The delicate balance of life rests with earth, give everything to protect it. j.e.p.

  30. Mags says:

    What can you say, until individuals stop being so commercialised and greedy things may not changes. I bet the average Joe in the street has no idea about nature, the food chain, etc. Education is one way, but until you take key things from individuals, they will not take it all on board.

  31. todd from mississippi says:

    “heaven IS on earth”

  32. J.E. Paterak says:

    Thanks Dave for that. I too think William McDonough has been very articulate on behalf of understanding the essentials of nature and the relationship with fundamentals of design. He is wise to point out that in most recent history, as economics has taken over the driver’s seat, many things have been irrevocably lost. Designing and more importantly THINKING differently is critical to a future.

    I think another possibility for a phrase could be to borrow heavily by stating:
    “Respect the laws of nature: it is fundamental to all life on Earth.”

  33. Kerry says:

    Natural currency

  34. Judy Bowman says:

    It needs to be simple yet definitive if people are going to remember it or at least understand it. We can’t live without taking care of Nature. We can’t live without Nature taking care of us. How about “Nature Nurtures Life.”

  35. Joanne says:

    ‘ecosystem life link’
    I was thinking ‘Nature is Life’, but then read where you seem to want to apply this. Have to show the valuable relationship. Good luck!

  36. Stephanie Doleniak says:

    This isn’t a good comment, but it’s the truth – Nature gives us everything we need.

  37. rhonda says:

    the good things in life.

  38. Rogard says:


    If that’s too obvious, then Quality of Life.

  39. Jeanne Scoville says:

    Having been richly blessed growing up on a beautiful farm in Western Wisconsin with parents who taught their children to respect the inherent sacredness of land, I sincerely believe the primary legacy of Nature is A SANCTUARY OF/FOR THE SPIRIT.
    Wherever I’ve travelled world-wide, I’ve always felt at home in the natural world. This, in turn, has opened doorways for my being welcomed into indigenous communities where their spiritual practices greatly honor the gifts and sustenance of Nature. In our hearts, we speak the same language…

  40. elle hoster says:

    all i want to do is plant trees all over town . Where do I go to get donations or grants and how do I get started? I’m doing it whether I get approved or not .

  41. elle hoster says:

    I breath, therefore i need nature!

  42. Zoya Zaidi says:

    A slogan for Nature
    “Nature gives us life!”
    Suggested by and copyright © Zoya Zaidi

  43. Mitzi Austin says:

    Each living organism has a continual relationship with every other element that makes up its environment. Within the ecosystem, species are connected and dependent upon one another in the food chain, and exchange energy and matter between themselves as well as with their environment. Therefore, I choose “symbiotic interdependence” as the catch words to describe our relationship with nature.

  44. Amy says:

    Nature’s footprints.

  45. Rosita Nunes says:

    Nature gives us breathing space for beauty, feeds us the stuff of life and washes it down with the clarity of water.

  46. Xtian says:

    Environmental Peace
    Natural Sake
    It’s our world too
    Green Life – Long Life

  47. Jessica says:


  48. Chief Seattle, leader of the Squamish Nation

    and I quote,

    “the Earth does not belong to Humanity, people belong to the Earth. This we know. All things are connected. Whatever befalls the Earth, befalls the people of the Earth. We did not weave the web of life, we are merely a part of it. Whatever we do the Earth, we do to ourselves.” 1854

    how about

    “Living Matter”

    What really matters!

  49. Jane says:

    Nature gives life. Simple.

  50. Stephen says:

    Nature provides balance.

  51. Hilary says:

    Nature provides us something to live for.

  52. Lizzy says:

    Nature provides us peace of mind.

  53. Mark says:

    I agree with Jane,
    Nature gives life – peroid.

  54. Chris says:

    Cradle Of Life

  55. MartyL says:

    Life on Earth: we call it ‘nature’.

  56. Elizabeth says:

    I would simply say that nature gives life; if we as a species impede nature then we are looking at the lose of all life.

    But rather I may ask the question “Does or could nature evolve to maintain life?” in regards that previous life has been destroyed by natural events 5 times before in Earth’s history.

    What would the situation be [for nature] if the next big extinction event were man made?


  57. scott says:

    she gives us “A Path to the One.”

    While we’re OUT in Nature, it can happen in an instant. Just take a second to take a deep breath and be silent and go withIN, and there you will find all you’ve ever been searching for… “Heaven on Earth!”

  58. bananas says:

    Instead of “ecosystem services,” how about “Snakes and snails and puppy dog tails”?

  59. Ann Z says:

    life force, bounty of the Earth, gifts from the Earth, life sustaining gifts of nature, fruits of the ecosystem, the natural harvest of ecosystem resources, harmony of humanity and the natural world, fruits of the Earth, gifts of beauty and utility, beautiful and life-giving eco-systems

  60. Jacqueline says:

    In my school I am learning about water and found out that only 3%is fresh water, the rest has salt. We also learned about desalinization. If you drink salt water your kidneys will shut down. Water treatment plants help dirty water become clean. WE also found out about the water cycle!

  61. Jacqueline says:

    I know the world has things you do not expect!

  62. Dian Novita Elfrida says:

    Nature IS Us

  63. Lewis says:

    Beyond-value life services

    Priceless preservation systems


    Everything…even your iPad

  64. tony romano says:

    I really dislike the economic terms, by adopting them we are turning nature into just another number on a cost/benefit analysis spreadsheet. Is that really what we to do?

    Perhaps they are necessary, but I can’t help but feel that by folding to the demand for transforming nature into economic language we serve only to deepen the chasm between us the world that we wish to protect.

  65. Brian says:


    Sounds delicate, complex, and connective.

    To market it to the masses, it should probably be called “Iecocircuitry”, which would be found outside your Apple Store. Connect to free songs, breathing, food, and shelter.

  66. Jesse Langdon says:

    How about “Planetary Life-Support Systems” or just “Life-Support Systems”? That really gets to the heart of the matter. “Ecosystems Services”, “Natural Capital”, etc, are way too wonky for the general public.

  67. Barbara Studer says:

    “Nature – Physical and spiritual sustenance”

  68. r cunningham says:

    Saw a venus fly trap plant in Brazil a few years ago yet, your article says they only grow in North Carolina.
    Why is that? is the article wrong or did the plant get imported & grow up to 5 (five) feet tall? Are all venus fly trap plants illegal?

  69. Check out this Wikipedia entry for Venus flytraps. Although they have been successfully transplanted around the world, they are native only to parts of North and South Carolina.

  70. Linda says:

    Dear Nature Conservancy:

    Yes! Nature provides us with indispensable gifts!! A walk in the woods is enjoyable! The plants, the leaves, the undergrowth! The trees provide much needed oxygen and the walks are enjoyable! Much can be learned from nature and nature walks and it is a cool, green science.


  71. Perhaps “Nature’s Gifts.”

  72. Diane Mallickan says:

    I couldn’t find any place else to comment on your article, “Ghost Cat,” so I am here. We have the Canadian Lynx right here around Lapwai ID outside of Lewiston ID. It’s very exciting when we see one. A rancher had the skin of one tanned. I sure hope he didn’t kill it to begin with.

  73. Vicki Jordan says:

    A Gift

  74. Diane Mallickan says:

    Indian peoples/Indigenous peoples all around the world know there is no difference between us and all living things which is everything. We are only a part of this great Mother Earth. The teaching is this–the foods, medicines, and even the things we don’t know what their use is–are gifts from the Creator. We are promised that IF we take care of the gifts, the gifts would take care of us. This is why Tribes spend millions to bring back species that are almost gone such as the salmon. When we take care of even one species it benefits all species. You can’t go wrong. My grandfather used to say,”when the premise is right, it will always be right. But when the premise is wrong you can never make it right. For instance, you can’t make it right when people only want to make money on “resouces” or gifts as we call them. If that is the motive, it is wrong. Traditional native people would never say, resources. That’s like calling your children resources. All things must be treated with the same respect as your children, in other words–sacred. Something that you wouldn’t put a price tag on. When those in decision making postions take this and realize that promise is not just to native people but to ALL people everywhere, and it is, only then can we begin to operate on the right premise. Thank you for hearing me today.

  75. Diane Mallickan says:

    I forgot another very important point. In Nimiipuutimt, or the Nez Perce language, our word for the ecosystem is Watus. Many think it is just the land but it is the atmosphere and everything below the surface and all the systems that work together. It is also understood that this Mother Earth does not rely on humans to exist. There are many, many legends about the time before people. Only half of these so-called myths speak of humans.

  76. Sean Brown says:

    Earth Support Systems

  77. zizi says:

    Bounty. Nature’s bounty provides the earth with everything it needs. People would be advised to curb their population and get inline with human carrying capacity to make sure that earth’s bounty continues in a healthy manner.

  78. luis felipe romero lozano says:

    save the planet

  79. Eddie says:

    I agree with the comments above that say using economic terms degrades what we should be protecting. I have wrestled for years with this, having worked in “natural resource management.” That term implies, at least to me, a consumptive outlook, as does the term “Natural Capital”. “Ecosystem Services” might be too esoteric.

    How about “Natural Amenities” or “Natural Endowment”? In financial terms, an endowment is usually a fund that you can use the interest from, but the fund itself remains intact, so even though it uses a financial analogy, it is more fitting than some others, at least to me.

  80. Anne says:

    Our bodies, our life, our home.

  81. Tracy says:


  82. Maya says:

    Nature sustains us
    but only if
    We sustain Nature.

  83. Michelle McClure says:

    Nature Provides Humanity, Inspiration, and …- the question was “What should we call what nature provides us?” If the idea is to reach all people big and small I believe blunt and simple to leave the reader of such a message to quickly understand what it is you want them to understand. By saying, “and…” it leaves the reader of the message to question themselves, what else does nature provide? They may relate what nature provides for themselves satisfying the greedy nature of the issue and yet getting the response to at least consider nature. Hopefully!

  84. Michelle McClure says:

    Sorry but we dont want to reach the people who care, right? They are already involved. It is the people who don’t care we are trying to reach and unless it serves them they won’t.

  85. Joe B says:

    in the context of “$ of value of ecosystem services,” try “natural value” or “nature’s wealth” or “nature revenue” or “nature paycheck” or “nature bonus” or “natural dividend” etc

  86. spacester says:

    Go with answer #3: (by MyLifeOutdoors)


    As in: the source of provender, that which sustains us.

    It is appropriately human-centric and also politically astute, bringing religious types under the same tent as secular humanists: the argument is reduced to whether the providence is divine in origin. Yet we can move forward together under that word.

  87. Carolyn Hopper says:

    I recently heard Dr. Sylvia Earle speak as a guest of the Wallace Stegner series at Montana State University. The word she used, with which I whole-heartedly agree is World Bank.
    Dr. Earle is currently the Explorer in Residence at the National Geographic Society.

    If someone has a hard time with thinking about our Earth as our World Bank whose resources we are depleting at break-neck speed and doesn’t understand that we can use without using up all we were given for free, then perhaps there is a way to show that everything on our planet is connected by a web.
    What happens in one place to one part of Nature affects us all.
    It has to go beyond just quoting statistics. As a writer I struggle every day with how to show rather than tell what is happening.

  88. SEO says:

    Greenery is Real life , save it.


  89. Guillaume says:

    Nature’s life support.

  90. Russell Hobbs says:

    Life Recipe

  91. Dragonfly's friend says:

    Gaia’s gift

  92. Catherine says:

    I would use the phrase “Ecologic Reciprocity”, a term I adapted from the title of an article by Sylvester Steffen called Economic/Ecologic Reciprocity in the Commons,a portion of which reads: “The egalitarian nature of life resides in the inherent/ coherent necessity of economy/ ecology. Every person depends in the same way on economic/ ecologic nature. Life individually is expressed “from within” naturally graced economy/ ecology. The evolution of natural/ human ecology/ economy is spontaneous “ad intra” (from within) and is cumulative in outcome “ad extra” (externally) in the physical complexes of ecological nature—which is to say: when human consciousness is intentionally faithful to its economic/ ecologic origins, it lives symbiotically in nature, not as a drain on ecology/ economy but as contributor, investor. The maintenance of nature’s economy supposes healthy, ongoing diversification of its ecology; not Ponzi schemes that cream off principal and interest. Humankind is already far down the road of trashing nature, of scamming nature’s principal and interest.” He is genius in his thinking and very well versed. Here is a link to the entire article:

  93. Catherine says:

    An additional comment I would like to add: my thinking was partly inspired by the comments from “Dave” on Jan. 25, who pointed out that basically we must not assume that Earth’s purpose is to serve humankind, rather we must recognize the need for a relationship that is give and take, reciprocal and symbiotic.

  94. Jackie says:

    This comes to mind: Earth as an island in space:
    “Earth: Island of Natural Abundance” Wellspring of Life.

Leave a Reply

Subscribe Now

Get our monthly e-newsletter filled with eco-tips and info on the places you care about most.

Recent Popular Posts