The Dasgupta Review

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

I have respond to the interim report of the Dasgupta Review – the independent investigation of the economics of biodiversity.   This is part of what I said:

I read your interim report with considerable interest and welcome the valuable pulling together of evidence and argument.  I completely agree that it is undoubtedly the case, as you argue eloquently, that biodiversity is not just valuable, but vital to humanity at every level from populations to individuals.   This is for a range of reasons stretching from the provision of ecosystem services which keep the whole show on the road, across to its contributions to individual and family well-being that accrue from the cultural services nature provides.

The point I want to make to you, however, is that people are also valuable to biodiversity.  This, as far as I can see, is a point that you do not overtly make in the report.  Any yet it is obvious on a daily basis wherever people live, whether through gardening for wildlife, their membership and support of local wildlife and environmental organisations, or their lobbying for local pro-biodiversity policies and practices.  Much of this leads directly or indirectly to the maintenance and enhancement of local biodiversity and ecosystem health. 
A key element in helping people to realise that (and why) such support is necessary has been education, both within schools and within the community.   This is a subject that you address in #2.84.  

All this though will not be enough. The conception of Nature and our relationship with Nature has evolved over the centuries, perhaps as recently as decades, in step with the place of Nature in economic reasoning.  Many view Nature almost entirely through an anthropocentric lens, even while our affection for Nature, and even our emotional attachment to it, declines. With growing urbanisation, that process of detachment can be expected to continue, perhaps even amplify. The Review concludes with a plea for a transformation of our education systems towards one where children from an early age are encouraged to try and understand the infinitely beautiful tapestry of processes and forms that is Nature. It is only when we appreciate that we are part of Nature and that Nature nurtures us that we will have fewer needs for reviews on the economics of biodiversity

Whilst I agree with what this paragraph says, it does read as if you think you’re the first to make this point.  In fact, environmental educators (in schools and the community) have been working with young and not so young people since the 1960s when significant environmental awareness emerged.  They still are, in their many thousands – supported by organisations such as the National Association for Environmental Education.  In this time, it has to be said, the Department of Education has not always viewed environmental education positively; nor has support been consistently provided.   Its enthusiasm has ebbed and flowed over the years, but sadly ebbed more than it flowed.  
At the moment, the tide is firmly out which is why it will take more than a mere "plea for a transformation of our education systems” to bring about change.  As the Department of Education does not respond to pleas, what is needed is a robust, evidenced case, presented to government as a whole such that the Department will find it hard to ignore.  I hope that you will do this.
Finally, I attached a report that Bath's Centre for Research in Education and the Environment wrote for the government in 2010.  This presented evidence of the value to young people of their schools taking environmental and sustainability issues seriously.    The evidence may be some 10 years old, but it has not lost its relevance, I think.

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


  • (we won't publish this)

Write a response