Today, February 2, is World Wetland Day.
A 2012 UN Report says from 1900 to 2012, the world lost 50% of its wetlands.
As humans, we value our productivity. We want to gut the unnecessary and utilize every minute and every inch to its full potential. However, when we aim for 100% productivity, our first instinct will often lead to less productivity.
The worker who works 24 hours each day will not last long. Productivity, if not the worker, will die quickly. It is crucial to eat, to sleep, and to exercise to reach any desirable level.
Our land is similar. If we use every acre of land in a manner that at first seems the most productive, it will result in a mess of roads, farmland, and buildings that is likewise unsustainable.
Wetlands are considered to be “among the most productive ecosystems in the world.” The benefits are many. The wetlands of the Great Lakes region support over $50 billion of recreational activities each year. A surprising number of species are dependent on wetlands specifically for survival. They protect against storms and flooding. Wetlands also function as a natural filter to keep our Great Lakes water clean, which is now more important than ever. Our lakes are great, and the resulting wetlands are spectacular and quite beneficial.
In Michigan, half of these wetlands have been drained and filled in the past couple of centuries. For newcomers at that time, this land was seen as unproductive, in the context that it could not be cultivated. The solution was to replace the wetlands with land that could be cultivated. Today, more wetlands are lost to development – parking lots, stores, roads, and more.
Whether you see Michigan’s wetland areas as now being half full or half empty, the dangers remain. Today, many efforts are being made to create wetlands – to return land back to wetlands – which can be difficult to do. Despite these efforts, the overall amount of wetlands in Michigan is still declining. It would seem that the most productive method is not to remove them in the first place.