While humans often feel like the luxuries money can buy enhance their lives, human prosperity has not been good for the planet. Now, a landmark review by Sir Partha Dasgupta of the University of Cambridge is showing just how devastating prosperity can be.

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Dasgupta is challenging the idea that the internationally used Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is a worthy measure of economic prosperity. He believes the system needs to be redesigned to recognize nature as an asset.

Related: World gets F on Aichi biodiversity report card

“Truly sustainable economic growth and development means recognizing that our long-term prosperity relies on rebalancing our demand of nature’s goods and services with its capacity to supply them,” Dasgupta said in a statement.

The 606-page report, titled “The Economics of Biodiversity: The Dasgupta Review,” stresses that humans are part of nature and that natural resources are finite. The review uses financial terms to explain the dire situation we face by living beyond our means vis a vis the natural world. “We have collectively failed to engage with Nature sustainably, to the extent that our demands far exceed its capacity to supply us with the goods and services we all rely on,” is one of the headline messages of the report. “Estimates show that between 1992 and 2014, produced capital per person doubled, and human capital per person increased by about 13% globally; but the stock of natural capital per person declined by nearly 40%.”

Dasgupta offers many recommendations, including making food and energy systems sustainable with technology and setting policies to change prices and behavioral norms. The report urges more investment in addressing biodiversity loss and in community-based family planning programs. Dasgupta calls on governments to introduce natural capital into national accounting systems.

Biodiversity is on a steep decline, with nearly one-quarter of global animal and plant species threatened with extinction. There’s been about a 70% decline in mammal, fish, bird, amphibian and reptile populations since 1970.

“The survival of the natural world depends on maintaining its complexity, its biodiversity. Putting things right requires a universal understanding of how these complex systems work. That applies to economics too,” natural historian Sir David Attenborough said in a statement. “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.”

+ The Economics of Biodiversity: The Dasgupta Review

Via BBC News

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