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UNCCD Marketplace Writers Competition - 3rd place winning story

3rd place winner Ms. Olga Sazonova
I am Russian, born in Ukraine. I spent my childhood in Russian Siberia. I completed my Bachelor degree in International Relations in Warsaw, Poland. I had an opportunity to be an intern at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in Hamburg. I got interested in the environmental politics, thus, I have just finished my second Masters in the field of sustainability. I am currently an intern at the Sustainable Development Mechanism Unit of the United Nations Climate Change Secretariat in Bonn. My hobbies include painting, vintage style clothes, art, photography and travelling.
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Priceless “Services” of Nature
When visiting my granny in the countryside in summer, we, children, were, first of all, running barefoot on the green grass, on the land, between the potato, carrot and onion garden beds. It was our small ritual, our tradition. The land was burning our feet with pleasant warmth and dust, was tossing small stones on our way, prickling and tickling at the same time. And we were running across the sunlit garden, passing by the huge oak planted by our grandpa when he was still young, and then repeating our route again and again!
I am in love with the land since the very childhood. I loved helping my granny and mum with vegetable beds, putting the seeds into the soil when the first warm days were coming. I liked watching how life was dawning and developing, how the first tiny sprouts were coming to the world. And, of course, I liked harvesting - such a long-awaited result of our work! The first potato with butter and dill, jam made of the ripe apricots, and pickles altogether evoke unforgettable memories of tastes and emotions coming from the childhood.
The land is giving us so much, and we, the people, tend to forget it so often, demanding and taking for granted everything that we get from it. That is why it is so important especially now, in the era of the high-technology, to remember about this special role land plays in the life of humanity. Currently, more and more research is being done on the human-nature interactions. Understanding that human is a part of nature and not its owner allows us to re-assess old practices and to find new methods aimed to achieve sustainable development, i.e. such kind of development which captures not only economic but also ecological and social aspects of people’s lives. A concept of ecosystem services is one of such sustainable practices. In spite of the fact that this practice is becoming more and more popular in the Western Europe, there are still not so many materials on this topic available in the Russian language.
Very often the term "ecosystem services" is being defined as "the benefits people get from the ecosystem”. But the word “benefits” has a very strong negative context. Moreover, this description puts men above nature. I would call it “the good” people get from the land. It can be material as well as non-material good. Provisioning (e.g. water, food) and regulating (e.g. water and air regulation) ecosystem services refer to the material good. Cultural ecosystem services such as aesthetics, inspiration or cultural heritage refer to the non-material good.
The principle of ecosystem services can be successfully used in agriculture, especially with regard to the issues of land use and land degradation management. It is very important to understand how complex different parts of ecosystems are, and how closely interconnected the diverse ecosystem services are. Very often this interconnectedness remains unnoticed. For example, a particular territory that used to be a small forest is used for the growing of wheat now. On the one hand, it increases food production. On the other hand, this territory used to be a habitat for some wild animals and a place for inspiration and rest for people before. From that point of view, such ecosystem services as biodiversity and aesthetic pleasure will decrease. Thus, based on the ecosystem service analysis of a particular region, it is possible to develop various scenarios in such areas as agriculture, forestry or tourism, taking into account possible negative effects on nature and other parts of the ecosystem. Ecosystem services maps help visualize the situation. ESMERALDA Project (ESMERALDA - Enhancing ecoSysteM sERvices mApping for poLicy and Decision mAking) is an example of how the concept of ecosystem services can be implemented into practice. The project aims at creation and analysis of the ecosystem service maps on the different levels – regional, state and international (in the frame of the European Union). In the future, these maps can be used for development of possible future scenarios, for political decision-making, as well as for the promotion of cooperation among various interest groups from political, industrial, ecological and social sectors.
The concept of ecosystem services is not a panacea to solve all problems since there are a lot of controversial moments and various divisions in this concept. Nevertheless, it is one of the novel ways of human-nature interactions that helps realize how generous nature is to people. And even if not everybody had a chance to run through the granny’s garden in the childhood, everybody can understand the value of the land, for example, through the concept of ecosystem services and through passing this knowledge to the future generations.

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