Natural assets: Surfing a wave of economic development – New Version

Featured Video Play Icon

What is the environment worth? Most attempts to answer this use parts of the environment that are bought and sold: like oil or farmland. But what about a beautiful mountain view, a tree-lined forest path… or a clean six-foot wave peeling down a point break? We estimate how much the environment can contribute to the economy using the quality of surfing waves as a natural experiment. Combining a unique online database of over 5000 waves around the world, and satellite images of light emitted at night time, we find that good waves boost local economic growth by over 1% per year. Annually this amounts to $22 million per wave, or $51 billion globally. The benefits are most pronounced in emerging economies. Surfing also plays an important role in reducing extreme poverty, encouraging the rural poor to move to nearby towns. It is therefore important not to neglect the important role the environment can play in economic development.

About Sam Wills:
Sam is an ESRC Future Research Leaders Fellow in Economics at the University of Oxford, specialising in how countries should manage their natural resource wealth. He has advised the governments of Norway, Ghana, Uganda, Iraq and Libya on natural resource policy with the International Growth Centre and the World Bank, and has also worked with the Bank of England, the Australian Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, McKinsey and Co., Westpac Bank and Taylor Fry Consulting Actuaries. Sam completed a D.Phil in Economics at Oxford in 2014, receiving the David Walton award for the top candidate in macroeconomics or finance. He also holds an M.Phil in Economics from Oxford and a B.Com in Actuarial Studies and Finance (Hons I and University Medal) from UNSW.

Sam Wills, 2010 John Monash Scholar
ESRC Future Research Leaders Fellow in Economics,
University of Oxford

About The Change Agenda:
The inaugural John Monash Scholars’ Symposium, The Change Agenda: Leadership and Direction for Australia’s Future, was held in Oxford on 1 April 2016. The UK and Europe based John Monash Scholars used short bite size presentations to inform a conversation on global trends, and provoke discussion about appropriate responses to them. Each area of discussion, Drivers of Change, Our Human Response, Harnessing Technology, and Leading the Region,  included 5-6 presentations, was chaired by an eminent Australian and took questions from the floor.