February 4, 2010

Prof. Dasgupta: Effective Management of Natural Resources Critical to Future

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A.D. White Professor-at-Large Sir Partha Dasgupta spoke to a packed auditorium of over 200 people –– most of them students –– in the Plant Science building yesterday about nature’s role in a country’s economic development. According to Dasgupta, if a country can successfully manage their natural resources, such as their oil, forests and minerals, they can greatly benefit their economies in the long-run.

Dasgupta, who is the Frank Ramsey Professor of Economics at the University of Cambridge, opened his lecture by noting that many economists and state officials don’t always view natural resources as capital assets that may be worth something to their respective countries.

“The value of our [natural] resources derives from their usefulness,” Dasgupta said.

Having provided this background, Dasgupta explained how the use of natural capital ultimately has an enormous effect upon the well-being of both a nation’s citizenry and economy for generations to come. Environmental disasters, he said, generally “result from the lack of management of natural capital,“ and if countries learned to see their natural resources as “capital“ that needed to be managed, they could prevent such catastrophes.

According to Dasgupta, this responsibility resides solely in the hands of the government and other major economic institutions. Though there certainly are examples where governments and institutions have failed, ultimately Dasgupta said that these institutions needed “to be trusted with the allocation of natural capital“ by the general populace.

A nation with the right combination of economic factors, including the efficient management of natural capital, Dasgupta said, would see an incremental gain in the multi-generational well being and wealth per capita of its residents.

The lecture was followed by a question-and-answer session.

One of the attendees asked Dasgupta regarding what “multi-generational well-being be based on“ in the future.

To this, Dasgupta answered that, although the experiences of our children will be radically different to those lived in the present, we need to make decisions with foreseeable positive repercussions.

“We make momentous decisions about our children. Their future is nailed by us in many ways,“ he said.

Dasgupta concluded his lecture by stating that the greatest legacy we can leave future generations with is the “permanence of our values.“

Several students who were part of the audience reacted with enthusiasm to Dasgupta’s presentation.

Kristin Oberheide, M.P.A. ’10, said that “ it is incredibly important for the University“ to have a personality such as Dasgupta talk on-campus. Oberheide believes that the lecture was definitely of interest to many students, especially those working within the field of environmental management.

Similarly, Maryam Jillani, M.P.A. ’10, said that Basgupta’s talk was special in how it blended a quantitative topic as economics with personal experience. Jillani particularly enjoyed Dasgupta’s remark on the “importance of our values for the future generations.“

The lecture was presented by the Program for A.D. White Professors-at-Large in collaboration with the Colloquium Series of the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs.

Original Author: Patricio Martinez