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The Role Natural Capital Plays in Keeping our Villages Vibrant

by Guest Blogger | Sep 26th, 2016 | Leave a comment

Written by Guest Blogger Shannon H. Rogers, Ph.D. Assistant Professor/Ecological Economist at Plymouth State University.

Harken back to your Economics 101 class and you may recall the concepts of built capital and financial capital as major pieces of the basic economic equation for producing goods and services.  Others may be familiar with human capital and even the concept of social capital (one of my favorites especially when looking at the connection between social capital and walkability –  but that may be another blog post!).  All of these types of capital are key to thriving communities across the Globe.   In this post, I’d like to discuss one type of capital that isn’t always considered but arguably provides many of the benefits we enjoy in New Hampshire’s vibrant villages—that is Natural Capital.

new-castle
New Castle

A quick definition of natural capital is:  the assets, such as ecosystems, that humans rely upon for many of our needs, including clean water, food, and carbon capture.   These assets provide a flow of goods and services for all of us called ecosystem services.

Many of us in the field of ecological economics study how we use and value our natural capital.  Ecological economics is still developing, but it has already shown its potential for helping us think about solutions to some of the most pressing problems facing society.  Have you ever come in from a wonderful day at the ocean or the lake or in the mountains and said, “wow, I really benefitted from New Hampshire’s natural capital today?”  If you haven’t, don’t worry, you are not alone. Natural capital is often hidden or taken for granted in the background, and because there haven’t been many ways to value it and incorporate it into decision making, it hasn’t always been considered in our decision making.

We are fortunate to be awash in natural capital here in New Hampshire, and it is arguably part of the New Hampshire advantage.  Some of us are studying how we use natural capital in the region and how we can better incorporate it into our environmental decision making.  My research group at Plymouth State University’s Center for the Environment has been looking at this very question in partnership with colleagues at UNH and Dartmouth with support from the National Science Foundation through New Hampshire’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (NH EPSCoR).  One new study we just published looked at the value of conservation land in removing pollutants, such as Nitrogen, before it reaches the impaired Great Bay Estuary.  Yes, you read that correctly, our natural capital (that is forests and watersheds) can help remove some pollutants as part of natural ecosystem functions and may help us save some money compared to building up engineered methods for purifying water and other services.

mirror-lake
Mirror Lake

Flood mitigation is another benefit from natural capital we might have in our communities.  You may have heard of the valuable things wetlands can do for humans:  holding back floodwater is one of those.  For instance, a 1-acre wetland, 1-foot-deep can hold approximately 330,000 gallons of water (see Purdue Extension) and is often more cost effective than building a large flood control dam.  This is not to mention the habitat and water purification services wetlands also provide as well as the copious recreational benefits our natural landscapes can provide, something we would call co-benefits and have tried to understand in another, recent paper.

All of these services contribute to the vibrancy of our villages, so the next time you are thinking about a planning decision in one of our wonderful villages, I suggest taking a second to ask about the natural capital implications.  You’ll probably be happy you did –  because not only will you save money  but there likely will be many co-benefits for you and your fellow citizens to enjoy.   Let me know how it goes!

gilmanton
Caution: Outrageous views in Gilmanton.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All photos by S. Rogers.

Shannon H. Rogers, Ph.D
Assistant Professor/Ecological Economist
Center for the Environment
Plymouth State University
[email protected]

 

Thank you Shannon!

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No to “Smarty Pants”: A Defense of Humility

by Guest Blogger | Sep 19th, 2016 | Leave a comment

Written By Guest Blogger, Stuart Arnett of ADG, LLC (and Plan NH Volunteer)

We at ADG just spent some real money on upgrading our web-site, so we can let our potential clients know just how good we are. Additionally, we each take turns blogging as “Subject Matter Experts,” the holy grail of social media marketing. My pix show up on this blog as well as in the web-site and other strategic places. Until recently, my name and the company’s were the same. So a “Listen to me, I’m an expert” blog on humility may seem ironic, if not disingenuous. But here goes:

I don’t know.

There, now that I’ve said that I feel better, and counter-cultural, too.

In my field, I have some pretty good experiences, but some of that is from what did not work. From my good-fortune education opportunities, I’ve retained some knowledge and skills, but they too have a shelf-life. I work with some real smart people, but they can only go so far making me look and sound like I have all the answers. But I don’t.

Is it just me, or does it seem that everyone that blogs, advertises, guest-speaks, or runs for office either says they know-all, or are expected to?  My Mom’s tender upbringing taught me to avoid the word “I” when I spoke (whoops, just did it…). One was not supposed to brag, or draw attention to themselves, and –worst of all – be a know-it-all. Should my mother really be peeved at one of us for this, she might even escalate the rebuke to the now-your-in-big-trouble “smarty pants” label, a sure indication of a dessert-less night.

Humility and its cousin meekness are often confused with weakness, or lack of resolve. I see them as necessary – if elusive – requirements for keeping an open mind to new solutions, encouraging a team-approach and encouraging collaboration. No, I’m not saying I want my doctor to answer my question about some illness with an “I haven’t a clue”; expertise is always essential should you presume to help others in your area of gift. But being knowledgeable is not the same as always being right.

Confidence, yes, but self-confidence that becomes arrogance, no.

And I think I’m not alone. Listen carefully to the reasons why Brexit, or the very-low positives for either presidential candidate, or the angst against mass media and government and you’ll hear the anger about being talked-down to.  This candidate says if you don’t agree, then you are not as smart as they are. The other says that your disagreement derives from their moral superiority. And either drive me –and others? – nuts when they simply conclude that “they know what’s best for me,” and then they are surprised I don’t thank them for their enlightened benevolence!

In my field of economic and community betterment, there are a billion moving parts.  Factors such as the local economy, demographics, real estate trends, new technologies, and local personalities and politics are just a few. We stay abreast of each as well as we can, and try to think and learn about what could work better. But my experience has always been that the expert’s recommendation is best viewed as a starting point; that it where we begin to discuss and learn – and rethink – solutions together. And that when several “I don’t know it all, but some of it, and I care about this community” people come together on a solution, and it is better than mine alone.

Feel free to disagree, as I don’t know it all.

Stu Arnett

stuart-head-shotadg-logo

Contact Stu:  7 SOUTH STATE STREET – SUITE 1, CONCORD NH 03301  Phone: 603.219.0043
www.ADG.solutions

Thank you for sharing Stu!

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