Cornell University

Shiny new labels on very old bottles: Reconsidering scholarship on market-based environmental management - Rebecca Lave, Indiana University

Friday, October 19, 2018 at 3:00pm to 4:30pm

Warren Hall, B73

SpeakerRebecca Lave, Geography, Indiana University

Abstract: Market-based approaches to environmental conservation are increasingly common.  There are markets for ecosystem services on every continent except Antarctica, and Payments for Ecosystem Services have become a central tool in international environmental policy circles. Advocates argue that market-based approaches will substantively, perhaps even dramatically, improve the outcomes of conservation efforts. 

These claims and the policy initiatives they generate have drawn a great deal of scholarly attention over the last fifteen years, from the Neoliberal Natures literature in Geography and Anthropology to environmentally-focused Political Economy of Research and Innovation (PERI) scholarship within STS.  But is that attention merited, or is it promoting and legitimating policy paradigms that might otherwise fall by the wayside?  What do we gain and what do we lose, intellectually and politically, when we call out market-based approaches as importantly different from past forms of capitalist nature?

In this talk, I first trace the history of the shift from “command and control” regulatory systems to market-based forms of environmental management via intellectual developments in ecology and economics and regulatory reform efforts beginning in the Carter Administration. I then argue that while the on-the-ground consequences for people and ecosystems from market-based environmental management are important, they are not new: enclosure, loss of livelihoods, and sacrificing ecosystems to enable development.  Ecosystem service markets effectively buttress existing trends rather than changing them. This strongly suggests that when we frame market-based environmental management as an important inflection point in the ongoing articulation of nature/capital, we obscure its intellectual and political consequences, making intertwined struggles for social and environmental justice more difficult.

Presented by the Department of Development Sociology Seminar Series

Co-Sponsored by Science and Technology Studies

Event Type

Lecture, Seminar


Development Sociology, Science and Technology Studies


dsoc, devsoc




Contact E-Mail

Contact Name

Sarah Day


Rebecca Lave

Speaker Affiliation

Indiana University

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