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The Tyler Prize, the 'Nobel for the environment' to the inventors of the natural capital

Some call it the 'Nobel for the environment'. What is certain is that it is one of the most prestigious awards attributed to those who study how to maintain t

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The Tyler Prize, the 'Nobel for the environment' to the inventors of the natural capital
Some call it the 'Nobel for the environment'. What is certain is that it is one of the most prestigious awards attributed to those who study how to maintain the health of our planet: it is the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement, an award presented since 1973 by the University of Southern California scientists who are distinguished in the field of natural sciences and of the defence of the environment. And this year crowns the expert of environmental sciences of Stanford Gretchen Daily and the economist of the Oxford Pavan Sukhdev . Two scientists who in recent decades have helped the world understand that the environment has a value that is extremely practical for human beings, an importance that transcends the scientific curiosity or the pleasure of a walk in the green, and that can be quantified in economic terms, thinking about the essential services that provides free of charge to our company. Gretchen Daily, the pioneer of research on ecosystem services If, today, a new generation of activists such as the young Greta Thunberg has begun to reclaim the importance of the environment health for the survival of our species, 30 years ago the situation was very different. The big issues, from climate change to biodiversity conservation, were already on the plate. But for many, it was still ethical issues, battles, idle from left to animal activists or scientists prone to catastrophism. It is thanks to the pioneering work of Gratchen Daily that the world has begun to understand the harsh reality is that economic growth that ignores the environment is not sustainable. And, in very concrete terms: an impoverished environment does not produce wealth, and is no longer able to sustain human life.

Since its very first activity of the researcher, when the Daily was still at his phd thesis, the scientist, the american has helped to set up a new field of studies that now makes it possible to quantify with precision the value, since long taken for granted, of the services provided by the environment, and in particular by the ecosystems they constitute human societies. “We can think of ecosystems as a sort of fixed capital: as long as there is asset as human capital or financial, there is also a ‘natural capital’,” explains the Daily. “And our survival is wholly dependent on this natural capital, formed by the availability of soil, water and biodiversity. Try to imagine what it would mean to live without all of this, for example, on the Moon. And yet, all over the world, we are destroying nature at an increasing rate”.

Due to the setting developed Daily, today, the economic planning may take into account the value of this natural capital, without giving the most for granted the availability of clean air and water, or forests, which capture the CO2 produced by man, as was the case in the past. With his project “NatCap” Daily has also developed a series of tools that enable decision-makers, policy-makers, economists, administrators, planning economic planning which promotes and enhances the natural resources, and to quantify and map the earnings of an investment nature. Goals that have convinced the jury this year to award to one of the two medals of the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement 2020. Pavan Sukhdev, the guru of the green economy In the case of the second winner this year, everything comes from a study commissioned by the European Commission in 2007 to calculate the economic cost of deforestation and the destruction of the planet's ecosystems. The first report was born from the work of the international team led by Pavan Sukhdev came out just a year later, in 2008, and was enough to transform the indian economist, a guru of the greeen economy: in that document, published with the title “The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity”, was written in clear figures in black and white, the price it pays to the global economy due to deforestation. A goal difficult to underestimate, since it is between those pages that the governments, politicians and economists around the world today know that to pollute and destroy the planet's resources is not an easy way to get rich, but, on the contrary, produces economic losses, precise and quantifiable.

“you don't need to be an environmentalist to be interested to the defence of the environment”, stresses the Report. “Just ask any farmer forced to rent bees that impollinino its fields, now that the wild populations of these insects are no longer enough to get it at zero cost. The problem is that the apis do not issue the invoice, and for this, the value of the services they provide had never been recognized”.

Thanks to the success of that first report, released at a time when the leaders of the planet were particularly receptive because of the large economic crisis of 2008, the United Nations decided to entrust their to Sukhdev, the leader of the “Green Economy Initiative”, one of the five groups of works launched in 2009 by the Secretary General of the Un. And in this capacity, Sukhdev continued to produce important results, showing that the economy more green can be an important engine of economic growth, capable of creating new jobs and alleviating the effects of poverty.

“The incredible contribution made by Sukhdev to our understanding of the value of ecology and the environment – ensures that the Assistant of the Un Secretary-General Satya Tripathi – will continue to influence our approach to the preservation of nature for generations to come”.

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