Last week we watched in horror as swathes of South Yorkshire were flooded, in scenes that resembled the aftermath of a tropical monsoon. Over the past 20 years, gross domestic product (GDP) has risen 50 per cent in most parts of the world. Millions have been lifted out of poverty, and we live better and longer lives than ever before. Much of this can be attributed to spectacular human ingenuity, innovation and technology in almost every part of the world.
The bad news, however, is that it has come at a cost we haven’t accounted for: the contribution of nature. Simply put, the value of our natural environment is not factored into the number-crunching when we calculate economic performance. Our economic model has depended and indeed thrived on the ‘gift of nature’ – and we see it as a gift that keeps on giving, and will keep on giving. It is clear that as the earth warms and unpredictable weather continues to form part of our daily news, that our whole economic model needs to change. We will need our young people to do something that humans have not yet managed; continue economic growth whilst stabilising and improving the natural environment. It will be a tough and unenviable task!