Bringing Liquidity to Life: Markets for Ecosystem Services and the New Political Economy of Extinction
by Jeremy Walker
The Last Rhino. Artist John Gledhill [Source]
This chapter attempts to situate the rise of market-based conservation policy, and its associated theoretical and policy frameworks such The Economics of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services within a wider history of what might be termed financialisation. Outlining a new chapter in the long history of ontological adjustment of ecological science to dominant accounts of political economy, this chapter explores the emergence of a novel political economy of extinction. This can be analysed in the transformations of theory: the reframing of the sixth extinction crisis within the neoliberal idiom of ‘natural capital’ and ‘ecosystem services’ reflects a history of the reprocessing of political and scientific ecological discourse in order to better accommodate it to reigning economic doctrines. TEEB and other articulations of market-based conservation do little to question the dominant economic theory that has licensed the financialisation of social, political and economic life and led to our current global economic crisis. As a species of power, it can also be analysed in the social connections of the corporate boardroom: where the professional authority, executive expertise, epistemic frameworks and political projects of senior conservation ecologists increasingly converge with those of the worlds most powerful bankers.