ESPA Panel discussion with Partha Dasgupta
At the ESPA Conference this week I was panel discussant for Professor Sir Partha Dasgupta’s keynote presentation (see this on the ESPA website). This rehearsed the key arguments for changing how we measure progress away from crude measures of GDP to include environmental and sustainability dimensions and to take account of stocks as well as flows of resources – hence inclusive wealth. The latest Inclusive Wealth Report assesses countries’ progress based on pilot analysis of 20 countries for the period of 1990–2008 (you can download this here). In my response to Professor Dasgupta’s talk I drew out lessons from this scholarship for the ESPA programme, of which I co-chair the International Advisory Committee. This highlights the need to a disaggregated understanding of poverty and dependence on ecosystem services – and which looks a sub-national scales right down to the intra-household differences in how people can benefit from and access ecosystem services, as argued in our paper last year in Environmental Conservation. Secondly, we need to understand the processes that make people poor, which keep them in poverty traps, and those which enable them to escape these traps. Third, we must consider the immeasurable by moving beyond a focus on the prices and monetary values and even other quantifiable indicators, and consider what is left out of our conventional measures of progress – be that subjective dimensions of wellbeing, or the cultural values and norms which affect self-worth, sense of place and identity. This is how we can start to answer the question Professor Dasgupta himself highlights – what do we really care about?