Economic factors underlying biodiversity loss

Partha Dasgupta, Simon Levin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Contemporary economic thinking does not acknowledge that the human economy is embedded in Nature; it instead treats humanity as a customer that draws on Nature. In this paper, we present a grammar for economic reasoning that is not built on that error. The grammar is based on a comparison between our demand for Nature's maintenance and regulating services and her ability to supply them on a sustainable basis. The comparison is then used to show that for measuring economic well-being, national statistical offices should estimate an inclusive measure of their economies' wealth and its distribution, not GDP and its distribution. The concept of 'inclusive wealth' is then used to identify policy instruments that ought to be used to manage such global public goods as the open seas and tropical rainforests. Trade liberalization without heed paid to the fate of local ecosystems from which primary products are drawn and exported by developing countries leads to a transfer of inclusive wealth from there to rich importing countries. Humanity's embeddedness in Nature has far-reaching implications for the way we should view human activities - in households, communities, nations and the world. This article is part of the theme issue 'Detecting and attributing the causes of biodiversity change: needs, gaps and solutions'.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20220197
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1881
StatePublished - Jul 17 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


  • GDP
  • accounting prices
  • ecosystem productivity
  • nature's services
  • primary production
  • wealth
  • well-being


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