The absurdity of ignoring the natural environment when measuring progress can be shown by considering an area of natural woodland. This will provide numerous services to society in terms of improved water and soil quality, flood prevention and air pollution while enhancing the landscape and supporting a diverse range of wildlife. It also provides enjoyment and health benefits to the community. The woodland may stand year after year but officially it is contributing nothing to GDP. However, cut it down and sell the timber – great news, you have boosted economic growth for that year by a tiny amount. But the consequences of losing that woodland will be with us for many years to come and no amount of money will be able to fully replace the benefits.
It cannot be beyond our wit to devise a measure of true progress which is based on the wellbeing of people and the natural environment on which we all depend. Then we might get policies that really are sustainable.
John F Hunt
North Berwick, East Lothian