6 June 2024

In a world driven by the pursuit of economic growth, the absence of nature from the global economic mechanism has, to a large extent, remained unnoticed. A call for change is, nevertheless, ringing loud, as a concept known as “ecological economics” gains momentum.

In an interview with Thai PBS World, Professor Sir Partha Sarathi Dasgupta, a prominent economist, shed light on the role of ecological thinking and biodiversity in reshaping economics, emphasising that biodiversity is a fundamental factor in the economic prosperity of nations.

“The fisherman depends on coastal fisheries. The productivity of that fishery does not lean on one species of fish, but the survival of that species, and the bountiful nature of that species in the coastal region depends on many other organisms. So, biodiversity enhances the productivity of the thing in which you are interested,” Dr. Dasgupta said.

Biodiversity indirectly enhances the services and goods that ecosystems offer us, ultimately impacting our income and well-being.

In global economic activity that places an increasing burden on nature, our demands have exceeded nature’s capacity to provide sustainably. Dr. Dasgupta stressed that it is imperative for individuals to pressure their governments to expedite the necessary changes.

“In the past, the loss was not included. Today, somebody would say there’s a loss because of the wetland being destroyed. There’ll be pressure on the government to include that loss before it says yes to any project,” Dr. Dasgupta said.

While Dr. Dasgupta has long advocated for this shift in ideology, the transition in the public sector has been sluggish. If the value of nature remains absent from the current economic system, governments will need to invest more in restoring nature’s productivity.

The economist further pointed out that wetlands, naturally cleansing water, serve as homes for insects and birds, essential pollinators of agriculture. Destroying wetlands would necessitate costly alternatives, like water filtration plants.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) plays a crucial role in many economies, including Thailand’s. Due to the unaccounted for cost of nature, investors, however, exploit the benefits of nature’s infrastructure. Dr. Dasgupta stressed that any country reliant on FDI should incorporate these hidden costs into their products and price exported goods accordingly.

The economist highlighted the dangers of neglecting the damage and waste caused by FDI. These impacts, largely involving the degradation of nature, often go unvalued and lead host countries to lose wealth.

Dr. Dasgupta warned of the potential for irreversible harm, if governments remain inactive in implementing change. People also need to educate themselves about the significance of ecological economics, as the environmental consequences will significantly impact not only our generation but also the lives of our children and grandchildren.

“The only way to handle it is to educate ourselves in ecology, to understand that this is a major and absolutely fundamental input in our lives. Not only do we breathe clean air as an essential part of our lives, if it’s polluted air, our life expectancy reduces. There is direct benefit in having nature be healthy,” Dr. Dasgupta said.

By Franc Han Shih, Thai PBS World

 

Full interview with Dr. Partha Sarathi Dasgupta