SOLVE magazine Issue 01 2020 - Page 22

SUSTAINABILITY AND THE ENVIRONMENT: ECOLOGY ECOLOGY: a new brand ECONOMY Research that helps developing countries turn environmental protection into new economic opportunities is providing important lessons for advanced economies whose entrenched policies struggle with changing environmental realities. It has been clear for decades that a certain view of ‘the economy’ – that natural resources must be fully exploited for national wealth – is at odds with environmental protection and the principles of sustainability. So enduring is this economic principle that, even in the face of evidence of global environmental degradation and climate change, many people worry humankind’s legacy may ultimately resemble the ruins of Pompeii or the fabled city of Atlantis – glittering achievements buried by the overwhelming force of nature. However, the tide is turning – slowly. The value proposition for natural resources is being re-thought, and the instructive examples starting to emerge are not the work of the world’s wealthiest economies, but that of some of the poorest. Driving much of this change are global research collaborations assembled by the University of Portsmouth’s Professor Pierre Failler, a specialist in development economics. Professor Failler has spent more than 20 years proving it is possible, even in the most challenging scenarios, to change thinking and practices governing environmental exploitation and protection. Gradually, he has helped governments in developing countries chart alternative, sustainable paths into environmental protection that stand to be a lesson for all nations. Professor Failler’s research focuses on environmental economics and it is deliberately practical in its application. “It’s mainly about the interfaces between the use of natural resources and creating better ways to achieve economic development and growth,” he says. “For instance, I’m helping many organisations develop strategies for the sustainable use of oceans and coastlines … to come up with new economic frameworks that lead to new economic policies.” A major focus for Professor Failler is the ‘blue economy’ – the oceans and coastlines and their resources. He emphasises the aim is not just to improve the health of an ecosystem, such as the heavily exploited coastal mangroves in tropical and subtropical countries, but to concurrently improve economic growth, jobs and livelihoods. His work in this field focuses on a range of outcomes: “When you talk about the blue economy, people jump straight to how to make more money from the ocean, or coastal ecosystems like mangroves. My job is to show how protecting these environments can actually have an even higher monetary value and deliver more sustained community wealth.” He offers some examples: “Green funds now exist in the global investment sector for protecting mangroves because they absorb a lot of carbon. So, the mangrove can have a value far greater than cutting it down to make way for another shrimp farm. “It’s the same with sharks, which are becoming threatened species in some areas. You can make more money developing scuba diving tourism among sharks than by having a dead shark and just selling its fin.” Professor Failler says that while a nation can clearly make a lot of money from exploiting its natural resources, these will eventually run out if they’re not protected. Alternatively, if natural resources are managed as a long-term investment, a country can build something economically and environmentally sustainable. It’s a different way of thinking about ‘economic value’, nonetheless Professor Failler says the argument for changing environmental policy still comes down to the language of balance sheets: “To convince people, you need to show that the country will gain financially by adopting this policy. That’s a big challenge.” 22 ISSUE 1 / 2020