Natural Capital and the Wellbeing Economy

Natural capital is both an economic metaphor for the limited stocks of living and non-living resources on our planet and a motivation to bring the invisible value of nature into everyday conversation. No matter how challenging, we must learn how to value our planet in ways that will move people and governments alike to act in the best interests of both humanity and the planet’s myriad ecosystems. This is also the underpinning tenet of a wellbeing economy.

Researchers and leading thinkers across the world are observing that global scale phenomena such as the COVID-19 pandemic have the potential to shift our everyday view of the natural world, underlining our dependencies and interlinkages with non-human species.

Unfortunately , our current economic system responds to the common needs of humanity and the planet in ways that do not address the heart of problems, such as our dependence on global trade, our unsustainable consumption patterns or overexploitation  of natural resources. In a wellbeing economy, policies options and measures are instead human-centred, and geared towards environmental protection and regeneration.

Several countries, including New Zealand, Iceland, Scotland and Wales have adopted the Wellbeing Economy as their national policies, based on the recognition that development in the 21st century entails delivering human and ecological wellbeing.

In this series of lectures I will examine what exactly is meant by Natural Capital and the Wellbeing Economy, the underpinning values and principles, and encounters between ecological theory and economics (Lecture 1). We will examine how pioneering ideas can flourish and crowd out maladaptive actions, just as in nature (Lecture 2). Then we will follow  a series of entertaining exercises on how to assemble the evidence and undertake the calculations that lie behind natural capital accounting (Lecture 3). Next we will examine questions about the absolute value of nature and humans, not just the capitalistic or monetary version and see how governments are putting these ideas into practice (Lecture 4). The next lecture looks at the challenge of scaling up calculations of natural capital and local wealth to create an estimate of the true wealth of the world (Lecture 5). The final lecture considers the future value of a wellbeing economy and its likely contribution to our survival and flourishing (Lecture 6).