Natural Infrastructure: What Is It and Why Does It Matter?

March 3, 2016

Here is a sobering fact: The United Nations estimates that 25% of the Earth’s lands are considered highly degraded. That means that one quarter of natural infrastructure – including forests, prairies, agricultural lands, estuaries, coastal landscapes and wetlands – may not provide the benefits it once gave to communities and businesses.

Now, couple that knowledge with the fact that our global population will grow by another 2 billion people in the next 30 years. In a growing global community, faced with ever-increasing constraints on our resources, the need for productive lands – to grow food, purify water, sequester carbon and provide raw materials – is critical. 

Caterpillar recognizes this global imperative and has convened conversations on the need to restore natural infrastructure. In November 2015, Caterpillar hosted a diverse set of thought leaders for the Restoring Natural Infrastructure Summit. From the presentations and discussions that took place at the event, Caterpillar has published a white paper detailing the participant observations and recommendations on the topic of natural infrastructure restoration. 

The white paper, titled Restoring Natural Infrastructure: Strategies for Thriving Communities, Businesses and Ecosystems, addresses the current state of the natural infrastructure restoration industry and measures that could catalyze its development and expansion. Summarizing the notable observations and recommendations made during the Summit, the paper addresses policy, advocacy and awareness efforts, the business case for restoration and collaboration as a means forward. 

 “We believe we have an opportunity to do things differently going forward,” said Karl Weiss, Caterpillar’s vice president with responsibility for Earthmoving. “And, to do it better as we work to meet the needs of the next two billion additional people on this earth.”

“Caterpillar, our dealers and our customers know infrastructure. The world needs both conventional infrastructure – roads, bridges, canals, energy – as well as healthy natural infrastructure for long term success. In fact, they are better when considered alongside one another.” Weiss continued, “With that understanding, we believe this industry represents a potential growth market for our businesses.” 

Caterpillar intends to continue collaboration on the topic of natural infrastructure restoration and encourages other businesses and organizations to join the effort. 

A link to download the white paper is below. Learn more about Caterpillar’s Sustainability commitment at Caterpillar.com/sustainability/natural-infrastructure.

 

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