The Vantage Point
UC Agriculture and Natural Resources
I’m excited to be speaking next week at the
California Economic Summit
, which takes place November 7 - 8 in Fresno. The Summit connects regional and state leaders to develop a shared agenda and collaborate on initiatives that fuel job creation, create livable communities and grow a stronger economy. The
2019 Roadmap to Shared Prosperity
outlines the California Economic Summit’s comprehensive agenda that will be addressed, with a triple-bottom-line approach (benefiting people, the planet and prosperity) to solving the state's biggest challenges.
I’ve been involved with the California Economic Summit from the beginning, when I chaired the Access to Capital Action Team at the first Summit in 2012. Since then I’ve co-led the Elevate Rural CA initiative, and I am currently on the Steering Committee for the Summit, as well as the team lead for the Ecosystem Vitality and Working Landscapes work group.
Let’s look at ecosystems and ecosystem services for a moment. Ecosystem services are the benefits people get from the natural environment and its many ecosystems, such as agroecosystems, forest ecosystems, grassland ecosystems and aquatic ecosystems. These ecosystems depend on “natural capital,” or the generative capabilities of natural systems. Compared to financial and built capital, natural capital is often taken for granted, leading to underinvestment in the natural systems that sustain them—a market failure that hits particularly hard in rural areas. The result has been a continuing depletion of natural capital, with examples ranging from falling groundwater levels and loss of productive farmland to poor air quality and declining biodiversity.
In California, however, there is a growing recognition of the importance of natural capital, especially in relation to conserving the working landscape and stabilizing rural economies. The state has become a global leader in linking environmental stewardship and economic development through ecosystem services markets. Its climate policies, for example, integrate resource conservation, infrastructure planning and social equity—and they include programs that protect natural capital by directly paying farmers and ranchers for ecosystem services.
While market-based approaches can raise both ethical concerns and practical challenges, they are showing promising results in California and have helped to address environmental challenges elsewhere.
California is the fifth largest economy in the world. It is the nation’s largest agricultural producer and the nation’s sole exporter of many agricultural commodities, supplying 99 percent or more of almonds, artichokes and garlic. However, California’s working landscape is not limited solely to agriculture. The study identifies and analyzes nine segments, including support activities such as agricultural distribution and processing, as well as industries such as mining and recreation, that are associated with the working landscape. Collectively, these segments contribute significantly to the state’s economic vitality and account for many jobs in the labor market. A key finding of this study is that California’s working landscape supports more than 1.5 million jobs and nearly 70,000 business establishments. In 2018, the nine working landscape segments paid workers $85 billion in earnings and generated $333 billion in sales.
California’s early economy was founded upon the working landscape, which continues to impact every corner of the state. The working landscape supports communities where livelihoods are dependent upon the state’s many natural resources—its fertile valleys, forested mountains and rich oceans.
“We need an economy that works for all Californians, no matter who you are or where you live,” says Governor Newsom. “The California Economic Summit will be a critical moment for us to come together, across all sectors, and commit to building inclusive and sustainable growth for the entire state.”
I couldn’t agree more. The challenges we face today are so complex that it takes a multidisciplinary effort to solve them, and the working landscape is an important part of that multidisciplinary effort.
We look forward to seeing you and collaborating with you! Also, please share
with colleagues who would be interested in receiving it, and encourage them to
. We thank you very much for your support!