Around the world, a central question bears on sustainability, the environment, and social and financial well-being: How much is enough? But there is an important corollary to that question—perhaps even more directly important to individuals. What does quality of life mean? And how should we measure it? Our panel of global experts weighs in, including Pavan Sukhdev.
Pavan Sukhdev: The Value of Nature
Scarcely a day can pass when my happiness is not affected by family, friends, col- leagues, work, leisure, traffic, pollution, weather, crime. We seek “well-being.” And so, at a personal level, we all do what we can to nurture our most cherished relationships, balance work with our personal lives to combine professional success and free time, avoid bad traffic conditions, choose to go out when it’s balmy, and live in clean, green, and safe areas.
We may also vote for politicians and purchase from corporations who make us believe their plans and products will increase our “well-being.” The problem is, they might not deliver. Indeed, well-being is hardly measured, and what is not measured cannot be managed.
Instead, modern society measures production, profits, savings, and wealth—all of which might contribute to well-being, but are hardly equivalent. The environment is sometimes measured quantitatively—emissions, pollution levels—but then left to the mercy of uninformed economic trade-offs and policy choices. It is time for that to change. The economic invisibility of nature must end. Policymakers, administrators, and businesses must recognize the economic value of a clean environment and take that into account in their decision-making. Otherwise, we can forget about improving our “quality of life.”
Pavan Sukhdev is the head of the United Nations Environment Programme’s Green Economy Initiative.
[Photo courtesy of flickr user raysto]