The natural solutions to our economic problems
Photo credit: Stuck in Customs
November 19, 2012 // By: Aniol Esteban
In the face of economic uncertainty, there is a well-known line that global governments repeat over and over again: the economy comes first. When there’s no money, so they claim, protecting the environment is a luxury we can’t afford.
The financial crisis of the last few years has given further credence to the view that the environment (and society!) is merely a subset of the economy, rather than the other way around. Loud attempts to brush aside legislation on habitat protection and repeated calls for creative uses of the Green Belt make George Osborne the UK's chief proponent of the false choice between natural environment and the economy.
Our new Natural Solutions report, released today, tells a very different story. We hope it serves as a reminder of the multiple benefits that nature delivers to our society and the key role it could play in addressing the economic and environmental challenges we face today.
The natural environment is the basis of our socio-economic system. It provides us with basic goods and services and increases our resilience to climate change and resource scarcity shocks. There is no economic stability without ecological stability.
The natural environment also supports delivery of key policy goals in a very cost-effective way. The work of several organisations - Mind, The Conservation Volunteers, National Trust and RSPB among others - illustrates how the natural environment contributes to improving mental and physical health, children’s development and education, community cohesion and well-being in general.
Some of this evidence and practice has come to the attention of policymakers, but we are still far from fully realising its potential. In the current context governments will need to find new ways to deliver well-being and key societal goals using fewer resources, and the natural environment provides many solutions to this challenge.
Nature needs to be at the heart of policies for economic recovery and wellbeing. A healthy environment provides solutions – and is a condition – to deliver a stable economy and high levels of well-being. Not thinking about the natural environment is a luxury we can’t afford.