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Statement of the MA Board

Living Beyond Our Means: Natural Assets and Human Well-being

Living Beyond Our Means: Natural Assets and Human Well-being
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This statement was developed by the Board governing the MA process, whose membership includes representatives from U.N. organizations, governments through a number of international conventions, nongovernmental organizations, academia, business, and indigenous peoples. See full list of Board members.

The statement from the Board identifies 10 key messages and conclusions that can be drawn from the assessment:

  • Everyone in the world depends on nature and ecosystem services to provide the conditions for a decent, healthy, and secure life.
  • Humans have made unprecedented changes to ecosystems in recent decades to meet growing demands for food, fresh water, fiber, and energy.
  • These changes have helped to improve the lives of billions, but at the same time they weakened nature’s ability to deliver other key services such as purification of air and water, protection from disasters, and the provision of medicines.
  • Among the outstanding problems identified by this assessment are the dire state of many of the world’s fish stocks; the intense vulnerability of the 2 billion people living in dry regions to the loss of ecosystem services, including water supply; and the growing threat to ecosystems from climate change and nutrient pollution.
  • Human activities have taken the planet to the edge of a massive wave of species extinctions, further threatening our own well-being.
  • The loss of services derived from ecosystems is a significant barrier to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals to reduce poverty, hunger, and disease.
  • The pressures on ecosystems will increase globally in coming decades unless human attitudes and actions change.
  • Measures to conserve natural resources are more likely to succeed if local communities are given ownership of them, share the benefits, and are involved in decisions.
  • Even today’s technology and knowledge can reduce considerably the human impact on ecosystems. They are unlikely to be deployed fully, however, until ecosystem services cease to be perceived as free and limitless, and their full value is taken into account.
  • Better protection of natural assets will require coordinated efforts across all sections of governments, businesses, and international institutions. The productivity of ecosystems depends on policy choices on investment, trade, subsidy, taxation, and regulation, among others.


* Unedited, unformatted draft


© 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment