Imagine the ocean, the rainforest or a river talking to you. What do you think they would say?

That’s the premise behind Nature Is Speaking, a series of short films by Conservation International that lets nature speak for itself.

We set out to rebrand “environmentalism” as we know it. This time, it isn't about nature. It’s about us. The voices of soil, coral reef and even Mother Nature herself remind us how much we depend on nature every day—for everything.

The list is long, but here are my top 5 essentials: 

Air. Every breath you take should remind you of nature. Life as we know it would have been impossible without blue-green algae appearing on our planet 3.5 billion years ago and producing oxygen. Since then, plants on land and sea have maintained gases in our atmosphere, making nearly all life possible—including yours. 

Three days. That’s how long you could survive without fresh water. And in the next few decades, more than half of the world's people are expected to live with severe water scarcity. Once gone, it’s nearly impossible to bring back. Water is our most precious resource, and we need to start treating it that way.

Food. You like to eat, right? Everything we eat comes from nature: fruits, vegetables, beans, meat—even bread started out as wheat kernels produced inside a flower grown in fertile soil. We know we will have to double our food production by 2050, and we can only do that with the help of nature.

Medicines. Nature is our greatest pharmacy. More than half of modern medicines are derived from wild plants and animals, and more than two-thirds of all medicines found to have cancer-fighting properties come from rainforest plants. Other new classes of drugs come from coral reefs.  

Joy and inspiration
. Nature offers more than just physical cures. Connecting with nature can boost creativity and health and transform lives. Anyone who has ever watched wildlife, hiked a mountain or snorkeled along a coral reef knows: Nature can make us happy. It has even inspired many of Coca-Cola's most iconic ad campaigns.

For all these reasons and more, it’s essential that we recognize that ultimately saving nature is really about saving ourselves. Nature has been around for more than 4.5 billion years, evolving to whatever the universe throws at it. People, on the other hand, have been here just a few hundred thousand years. We are the newbies, and we are entirely dependent on what nature provides.

My organization, Conservation International, is listening to nature, and so are many of the companies we work with, including The Coca-Cola Company. In 2011, we worked with them to develop sustainable agriculture guidelines and protect water resources in Brazil. Read more about Coca-Cola’s partnership with CI, and learn about the other ways the company is listening to nature.

Now, are you ready to listen to nature? Watch all of the Nature is Speaking films, and please share them with your friends and family and commit to take small steps to reduce your impact on nature.  

Dr. M. Sanjayan (@msanjayan) is Executive Vice President and Senior Scientist at Conservation International, where he focuses on role of conservation in improving human well-being. His PBS series, EARTH-A New Wild, begins airing on PBS on Wednesday, Feb. 4.