A short letter to Colin Tingle about the Dasgupta Review
The late Dr Colin Tingle was a driving force in Transition Town Lewes (he now features on the Lewes 10-pound note) and passionate about getting the economic value of nature to be properly realised. With a landmark Treasury report calling for nature to be included in accounting systems, Susan Murray considers what Colin’s response would have been.
We all miss you and still remember the wonderful work you did on promoting ‘nature gain’, embedding ecosystem services into the Lewes Neighbourhood Plan, getting us all to understand how much nature does for us economically, socially and mentally through some very enjoyable games and so much more. You were an environmental hero. No surprise then that when the Dasgupta Review on the economics of biodiversity was published last month I immediately felt that it vindicated all your ideas and, of course, wondered what you would think of it
The review by Sir Partha Dasgupta, Professor Emeritus of Economics at Cambridge University, and commissioned by the Treasury in 2019, describes Nature as our most precious asset and urges a radical rethink of economics. Among its recommendations are a move away from Gross Domestic Product as a measure of progress. It says: “Truly sustainable economic growth and development means recognising that our long-term prosperity relies on rebalancing our demand of Nature’s goods and services with its capacity to supply them”; and: “We can no longer afford for nature to be absent from accounting systems that dictate national finances, or ignored by economic decision makers”.
Sir David Attenborough says of the report: “This comprehensive and immensely important report shows us how by bringing economics and ecology face to face, we can help to save the natural world and in doing so save ourselves.”
I feel sure that you, Colin, would have been thrilled by this, but also more than a bit concerned about nature apparently being reduced to nothing more than its monetary value. Professor Diane Coyle calls the case set out by the Review a “pragmatic” one and says “Many people will agree there is a moral case for humanity to be good stewards of the rest of nature, but the Review’s point is that the economic case is powerful too,” and adds “Ethics and economics are not separate.”
Professor Dasgupta says: “If we care about our common future and the common future of our descendants, we should all in part be naturalists.” I know that you, Colin, would be wholeheartedly in support of that. To honour your work and memory, the rest of us, meanwhile, need to keep an eye on how this all plays out in government policy.
With much love,