Sustainability expert lectures on environment

Sir Partha Dasgupta, the Frank Ramsey Professor Emeritus of economics at the University of Cambridge and the 2016 recipient of the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement, gave a lecture on sustainable development in The Forum at the Ronald Tutor Campus Center Thursday.

The Tyler Prize was established by John and Alice Tyler in 1972 and has been administered by USC for 43 years. The award seeks “to recognize those individuals who have contributed in an outstanding manner to the scientific knowledge and public leadership to preserve and enhance the environment of the world,” according to their website. Recipients are recognized at a ceremony in Los Angeles with a commemorative medallion and a $200,000 prize.

Dasgupta was born in Dhaka, British India (now Bangladesh) and has received degrees from the University of Dehli and the University of Cambridge. Throughout his tenure, he has taught at a number of prestigious research universities including Stanford University, Cornell University and the London School of Economics.

As a prominent economist, Sir Partha has published 23 books and more than 300 articles. His research has covered a broad range of topics and global problems, notably sustainable development and his effort to “[bridge] the gap between environment and the human condition.”

Dasgupta was a pioneer in forging the concept of “sustainable development” in the 1970s, years before the term was popularized in the environmental community. His research has focused on the interdisciplinary nature of environmental studies, suggesting the interconnectedness of poverty, population, resources and biodiversity. He has also advocated for intergenerational well-being, as opposed to traditional metrics such as GDP, to become the most significant ways to measure and observe sustainable development over time.

Though recognizing that the value of certain things cannot be quantified in any objective way, he stressed the importance of assigning economic value to assets, including natural resources and social capital, among others. By doing this, as opposed to thinking of nature as having intrinsic worth separate from economic value, environmentalists can provide more tangible incentives for individuals and institutions to act in more sustainable ways.

Julia Marton-Lefevre, the chair of the executive committee of the Tyler Prize, said that Sir Partha is the first economist to ever receive the Tyler Prize.

“We feel that the work that Partha Dasgupta has done has really made a contribution in the way we are trying to address the way we measure well-being,” Marton-Lefevre said. “And we felt that it was very important that, for him, well-being wasn’t only for people like us, in comfortable countries like this one, but also to think very seriously about the fate of the more than 2 billion very poor people on the planet.”

Autumn Mizuno, a freshman majoring in international relations, said Partha helped to change her perspective on sustainable development.

“I never really associated putting a value on nature as a way to instigate change with regards to environmental policy in the way we look at the world,” Mizuno said.

Marton-Lefevre also commented on urgency of this issue in light of global sustainability efforts.

“This is the year that sustainable development goals have been set by all our governments,” Marton-Lefevre said. “And the idea is that all of these goals are related to each other. That’s what his work has illustrated, and let’s hope it works.”