Professor Bhaskar Vira on the value of the natural world
I spent my childhood at school in the foothills of the Himalayas, walking and trekking in the mountains, drinking from streams with the purest water. It was a time of great joy, but also a time when I first encountered some of the devastating consequences of human “progress”.
Beyond my school windows, my classmates and I could see limestone quarries cutting into the spectacular mountainside. We heard of conservation activists who were campaigning against the quarries, and we supported them, planting hundreds of trees to reforest the hills, and celebrating when India’s Supreme Court ruled against the quarries.
Today, as an economist turned geographer, I’m on a mission to understand the true value of our natural world, and in turn, to convince others to consider its value and to conserve it for the future.
Human beings are having a profound, potentially irreversible impact on nature. Every day we lose species and natural habitats; our water supplies are under threat. Climate change threatens our very existence, but we don’t value these losses in our measures of progress and prosperity.
Until we value what nature provides for free, we will continue to make terrible mistakes. What is the true value of our snow-topped mountains and inland lakes? How can we share our planet’s resources equitably?
About the Cambridge Conservation Research Institute
The Cambridge Conservation Research Institute addresses these questions by drawing on interdisciplinary expertise across the University of Cambridge. Based in the David Attenborough Building, it collaborates with nine separate conservation organisations, and forms the world’s largest cluster of conservation-focused researchers and professionals. Together, we are searching for effective ways to restore the natural world on which we all depend, methods to stop the world from carrying on as though it’s “business as usual”, and finding catalysts for changes in political and business decision making, and incentivising positive human action.
Our work is critical, because the decisions we make now will affect the prosperity of the planet and humanity far into the future.
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