What Has Nature Ever Done For Us? by Tony Juniper – Review

What Has Nature Ever Done For Us’ by Tony Juniper – a leading environmental campaigner and sustainability advisor – is a remarkable book which highlights the true value of the natural world, and the true economic cost of human ignorance in modern day development. 

What Has Nature Ever Done For Us? by Tony Juniper (2012)

What Has Nature Ever Done For Us? by Tony Juniper (2012)

After getting thoroughly engorged into the first few chapters, I was fortunate enough to attend a book club hosted by Friends of the Earth with my manager Dawn Newton, where we had the opportunity to meet Tony Juniper himself (and get my book signed – eeeek!) and learn first-hand about his motivations for writing ‘What Has Nature Ever Done For Us’. He passionately spoke how science is basically communicated to the general public in Swahili, with poor communication methods effectively building great walls and further separating environmentalists, and everyone else.

Juniper’s key aim therefore was to communicate the science to all audiences, which he fulfilled by explaining the complexity and interdependency of nature in a story-like fashion. He produced an engaging and highly readable account of how we as a population are literally liquidating the capital of the Earth.

Tony Juniper - Executive Director

Image provided by Friends of the Earth

To introduce the complex web of interactions and relationships occurring within the Earth’s system, the prologue tells the story of Biosphere 2, the first man-made version of the biosphere which incorporated a variety of the world’s ecosystems in individual biomes. This introduction outlines how a group of eight people embarked on a 2 year experiment in a microcosm of the Earth’s closed systems and the trials, tribulations and complexities they faced.

Juniper then continues to address the importance of the different components of the Earth’s system and their vital interactions. He explains to the reader the full importance of nature’s processes; constantly moving from a cold statistic to a vivid anecdote about the economic failures we have already faced as a consequence of our need to fund our exploding population and consumption habits.

A favourite example of mine concerned the Indian vultures – a scavenger which typically doesn’t pluck at the heart strings of conservationists – who suffered a population decline of 40 million birds following the introduction of a painkiller into cattle, the carcasses of which were a key source of food for the vultures. The original aim was to increase the farmer’s revenue by increasing the productivity of the cattle; however the painkiller proved poisonous to the vultures instigating a population crash and left mountains scattered with ‘putrefying fly-ridden corpses’. The consequence was more wild dogs, more dog bites, and a rabies epidemic which cost the Indian economy $30 billion.

Indian Vulture

Junipers key message is that we must put a price on nature if we are to ensure the long term preservation of our natural assets, and in turn maintain the long-term benefits the natural world provides. Nature’s services are not free and are not limitless. To capitalize on this goal we need to move away from our ‘green economy’ dominated by engineers and politicians, and move to a ‘bio economy’ where like during the construction of Biosphere 2, ecologists, climatologists, engineers, politicians, and businesses all work together to maximise our understanding and achieve our common goal.

Overall this book has provided the opportunity for readers from all walks of life to understand the difficulties faced by the natural world and our interwoven fate.

If you aren’t eager enough to buy the book already here are links to other reviews from the Guardian, by Designs On Earth, and by Friends of the Earth! 

And if your still not convinced visit Tony Juniper’s website…

Finally if any of you are interested in attending future Friends of the Earth book clubs visit their webpage with video of Tony (which also has the link to buy the book) contact: foebookclub@foe.co.uk

tumblr_m04d7lhXKL1qc6j5yo1_500Want to do something to help?

Healthy Planet’s Conservation Community allows you to directly impact the difficulties faced by the natural world. It is a fun and engaging way for anyone, anywhere to support real conservation projects that are helping make a healthier planet.

Visit the community and get on the map. www.conservationcommunity.org

Blog post written by Rhiannon Downer: Marketing & Communications intern at Healthy Planet

Kitting out the Fundación ProAves forest guardians

Lecture on boundary monitoring given within Las Tangaras Nature reserve

Lecture on boundary monitoring given within Las Tangaras Nature reserve

Our Conservation Coordinator and leader of the Adopt-a-Plot initiative, Olivia Couchman, has given us an update on one of the ongoing conservation projects we support.

For the past 8 months, Healthy Planet has been supporting conservation work within four nature reserves in Colombia, in partnership with the local conservation organisation, ProAves. The reserves include two lush lowland tropical rainforests of the Magdalena valley (El Paujil and Pauxi Pauxi Nature reserves) and two Pacific coastal forests of the Chocó region (El Pangan and Las Tangaras Nature reserves).

Why is it important

As global demand for commodities like gold and coffee increases, the reserves are increasingly under threat of expanding agriculture, mining, logging, hunting, and other methods of exploiting their natural resources.

Project aim

The project aims to protect 46,000 acres of tropical rainforest within two critical hotspots for endemic species (that is, those that are only found within Colombia) and threatened biodiversity. This will be done through the training and deployment of forest guard teams within each reserve to increase the protection of the reserves. The guards will also monitor endangered flagship species, assist reforestation of recently acquired pasturelands to establish vital wildlife corridors between forest blocks, and interact and liaise with local communities to secure local goodwill and support.

Our contribution

Healthy Planet is proud to have supported the training and deployment of half the forest guardians needed, via funding raised through Adopt-a-Plot.

Forest Guardians (L-R) Hugo Fuentes, Guia Eduard Guarin, Jose Rojas, Uber Garcia sporting Healthy Planet shirts

Forest Guardians (L-R) Hugo Fuentes, Guia Eduard Guarin, Jose Rojas, Uber Garcia sporting Healthy Planet shirts

How we have helped
The Guards have been trained in a range of disciplines, including:

  • GPS and boundary monitoring
  • computer skills
  • bird identification from sight and song
  • wildlife monitoring, camera trapping
  • first aid
  • snake bite management

Each guardian equipped with:

  • full uniforms
  • GPS data loggers
  • digital camera
  • binoculars

Right and below are some images of the new guards showing off their new skills and equipment.

To find out more about helping us and our project partners complete the training of these vital guards:

To learn more about ProAves:


Guards create clearly marked boundaries around the reserve


Learning to identify the local birdlife to monitor the species diversity 


ProAves team members train the rangers in basic computer skills to help with their work

If you would like to nominate a project/park for our adopt a plot fundraising programme please get in touch.