Political Ecology Network (POLLEN) bi-annual conference, Oslo, 20 – 22 June 2018
Organised by Amber Huff (Institute of Development Studies and STEPS Centre) and Andrea Brock (University of Sussex)
Deadline for abstracts – 30 November 2017
In recent years, scholars have highlighted the changing dynamics of conservation based on a convergence of interests and intensifying alliances between corporate capital, finance and conservation (Büscher et al. 2012; Brockington and Duffy 2010; Sullivan 2006). These changing dynamics have given rise to new politics and practices of resource control and territorialization (Peluso and Lund 2011; Neves and Igoe 2012), including those explicitly linking regimes of nature-based accumulation, knowledge and governance (Smith 2009; Büscher and Fletcher 2014), often under the guise of ‘green growth’, sustainable development and climate change mitigation (Cavanagh and Benjaminsen 2017).
Green grabbing, the elite expropriation and enclosure of land or resources for ostensibly environmental purposes (Fairhead et al. 2012; Corson et al. 2013), has become increasingly linked to calls for technical management of local landscapes to produce both conservation areas and ‘nature[s] that capital can see’ (Robertson, 2006). To these ends, political ecologists have emphasised the salience of ecotourism (Kelly, 2011), bioprospecting (Neimark 2012) and the direct or indirect valuation of nature to correct ‘market failures’ and produce carbon credits (Bumpus and Liverman 2008, 2011), biodiversity offsets (Sullivan and Hannis 2015) and other ‘non-extractive’ nature-based commodities and financial instruments (Büscher 2014).
For Sullivan (2013), the ‘spectacular financialization of environmental conservation’ has turned overlapping crises into opportunities, creating a new investment frontier, triggering the rewriting of conservation practice in terms of banking and financial categories and engendering new types of ‘human-with-nature relationships’. ‘Spectacle’ (Brockington and Duffy 2010; Igoe 2010, 2013) is fundamental to these transformations, which have given rise to an industry that sells the elite performance of sustainability as these dynamics and mechanisms enmesh distant investors and nature consumers in idealized ‘local’ conservation relations and landscapes (Igoe 2013; Huff and Tonui 2017).
High profile conservation events, celebrity testimonials, mass media messages, corporate social responsibility reports and marketing campaigns with engaging web sites and glossy brochures package and deliver compelling imagery and just-so stories of crisis, stewardship and salvation, not to mention the promise of ‘wins’ for all. Through spectacle, they simultaneously obscure and alienate market-driven conservation schemes, nature-based commodities, financial instruments and investment platforms from the relationships that produce and sustain them, including exclusions that can entrench social and economic inequalities and processes of underdevelopment, result in displacement of people and livelihoods, transform property relations, blur the lines between extraction, mitigation and preservation, and amplify local insecurities through the increasing securitisation and militarisation of conservation practice (Cavanagh and Benjaminsen 2014; Dunlap and Fairhead, 2014; Marijnen and Verweijen 2016; Büscher and Davidov 2013; Brock and Dunlap forthcoming).
Positioned against these developments that link enclosure, financialization, spectacle and the production of new natures, we point to a new dynamic in conservation finance – the fundamental shift from protection and conservation of ecosystems to an economy of repair (Fairhead et al, 2012). Often linked to offsetting and compensation schemes, the repair mode of conservation relies on the assumption and imagery of degradation and the promise of accumulation through restoration, recreation and recultivation to create new or better-disciplined, legible and substitutable natures. What we term accumulation by restoration relies centrally on the capability to apply metrological standards of economic valuation alongside the institutionalisation of the technical language of ‘neutrality’ or ‘net gain’ of land, biodiversity and other characteristics and functions of nature. This is embodied for instance in the UN’s new ‘Land Degradation Neutrality’ fund (Huff and Brock, forthcoming) and other new environmental initiatives such as the EU’s ‘No Net Loss Initiative’ and the ‘Climate Neutrality’ advocated in the UNFCCC Paris agreement.
Underlying are assumptions about the fungibility of nature and the expectation that we can meaningfully compensate for ‘actually existing degradation’ in one place through restoration and even ‘avoided degradation’ in another place, reducing complex landscapes into abstract, quantified and exchangeable units that can be tallied on global balance sheets of environmental harm or health. It seems to offer, as if by magic, a means to ‘neutralize’ destruction and deliver development co-benefits, through spectacular abstraction, across different real-world contexts and ecologies, and across vast spatial and social distances. Rather than addressing the root causes of economic and ecological crises, we propose that accumulation by restoration amplifies the exclusionary, racist and violent trajectory of neoliberal conservation, exacerbating socio-economic inequalities and power hierarchies; further engraining the dominant ‘exploit-deplete-mitigate’ green growth paradigm and facilitating socially and ecologically destructive development.
To understand these emerging dynamics requires in-depth analysis of the circumstances underlying and resulting from restoration regimes, the policies and finance mechanisms that support it, the actors and alliances involved at different levels, the spatial relations at play, and its outcomes for communities and landscapes. We thus invite conceptual, theoretical and empirical contributions examining the topics covered below, or any other area related to accumulation by restoration:
- Varieties and manifestations of finance-led restoration regimes, with attention to new alliances and partnerships, including the roles of corporate-NGO partnerships, public-private partnerships and community-level partnerships in legitimising and enabling restoration projects in particular places
- The role or significance of ‘virtual’ or speculative land grabs in finance-led restoration schemes
- Intended and unanticipated social and environmental changes associated with finance-led restoration, including the intersection of these politics along axes of social difference including, but not limited to, gender, race, caste and social class
- The ways that finance-led restoration is implicated in corporate Greenwashing and contributes to / is instrumentalised to address social unrest or resistance against industrial development projects
- The assumptions, narratives and techniques underlying and/or legitimising a fundamental shift in the conservation paradigm from protection to restoration, including the revival and redeployment of myths of scarcity, degradation and environmental predation
- The role of restoration at the intersection of conservation, environmental securitisation and militarisation
- The role of spectacle in international conservation finance and the politics of restoration in the performance of environmental stewardship
- The implications of finance-led restoration regimes in understanding the changing role and salience of the state in reference to state-society relations, territorialization and the foreignization of space
Please send abstracts of no more than 300 words to both Amber Huff (email@example.com) and Andrea Brock (firstname.lastname@example.org) before 30 November 2017. Upon acceptance, applicants will still have to register through the POLLEN website.
We intend build on this panel to produce a special issue focusing on Restoration by Accumulation and thus encourage the submission of full papers before or shortly after the conference. If you are interested in participating in the special issue, but cannot attend the conference, please do get in touch.
Brock, A., & Dunlap, A. (In press). Normalising corporate counterinsurgency: The everyday operations of RWE in the Hambacher Forest and beyond. Political Geography.
Brockington, D., & Duffy, R. (2010). Capitalism and conservation: The production and reproduction of biodiversity conservation. Antipode, 42(3), 469-484.
Bumpus, A. G. (2011). The matter of carbon: understanding the materiality of tCO2e in carbon offsets. Antipode, 43(3), 612-638.
Bumpus, A. G., & Liverman, D. M. (2008). Accumulation by decarbonization and the governance of carbon offsets. Economic Geography, 84(2), 127-155.
Büscher, B. (2014). Nature on the move I: the value and circulation of liquid nature and the emergence of fictitious conservation. In B. Büscher, W. Dressler, & R. Fletcher (Eds.), Nature Inc.: Environmental Conservation in the Neoliberal Age (pp. 183). Tucson: University of Arizona Press.
Büscher, B., & Davidov, V. (2013). The ecotourism-extraction nexus: Political economies and rural realities of (un) comfortable bedfellows (Vol. 10): Routledge.
Büscher, B., & Fletcher, R. (2014). Accumulation by Conservation. New Political Economy(ahead-of-print), 1-26.
Büscher, B., Sullivan, S., Neves, K., Igoe, J., & Brockington, D. (2012). Towards a synthesized critique of neoliberal biodiversity conservation. Capitalism Nature Socialism, 23(2), 4-30.
Cavanagh, C., & Benjaminsen, T. A. (2014). Virtual nature, violent accumulation: the ‘spectacular failure’of carbon offsetting at a Ugandan National Park. Geoforum, 56, 55-65.
Cavanagh, C. J., & Benjaminsen, T. A. (2017). Political ecology, variegated green economies, and the foreclosure of alternative sustainabilities. Journal of Political Ecology, 24, 200-341.
Corson, C., MacDonald, K. I., & Neimark, B. (2013). Grabbing “green”: markets, environmental governance and the materialization of natural capital. Human Geography, 6(1), 1-15.
Dunlap, A., & Fairhead, J. (2014). The Militarisation and Marketisation of Nature: An Alternative Lens to ‘Climate-Conflict’. Geopolitics(ahead-of-print), 1-25.
Fairhead, J., Leach, M., & Scoones, I. (2012). Green grabbing: a new appropriation of nature? Journal of Peasant Studies, 39(2), 237-261.
Huff, A., & Tonui, C. (2017). Making ‘Mangroves Together’: Carbon, conservation and co-management in Gazi Bay, Kenya (1781183708). Retrieved from Brighton:
Igoe, J. (2010). The spectacle of nature in the global economy of appearances: anthropological engagements with the spectacular mediations of transnational conservation. Critique of Anthropology, 30(4), 375-397.
Igoe, J. (2013). Consume, connect, conserve: consumer spectacle and the technical mediation of neoliberal conservation’s aesthetic of redemption and repair. Human Geography, 6(1), 16-28.
Kelly, A. B. (2011). Conservation practice as primitive accumulation. Journal of Peasant Studies, 38(4), 683-701.
Marijnen, E., & Verweijen, J. (2016). Selling green militarization: The discursive (re) production of militarized conservation in the Virunga National Park, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Geoforum, 75, 274-285.
Neimark, B. D. (2012). Industrializing nature, knowledge, and labour: The political economy of bioprospecting in Madagascar. Geoforum, 43(5), 980-990.
Neves, K., & Igoe, J. (2012). Uneven development and accumulation by dispossession in nature conservation: Comparing recent trends in the Azores and Tanzania. Tijdschrift voor economische en sociale geografie, 103(2), 164-179.
Peluso, N. L., & Lund, C. (2011). New frontiers of land control: Introduction. Journal of Peasant Studies, 38(4), 667-681.
Robertson, M. M. (2006). The nature that capital can see: science, state, and market in the commodification of ecosystem services. Environment and Planning D: society and space, 24(3), 367-387.
Smith, N. (2009). Nature as accumulation strategy. Socialist register, 43(43).
Sullivan, S. (2006). Elephant in the room? Problematising ‘new’(neoliberal) biodiversity conservation. Paper presented at the Forum for Development Studies.
Sullivan, S. (2013). Banking Nature? The Spectacular Financialisation of Environmental Conservation. Antipode, 45(1), 198-217.
Sullivan, S., & Hannis, M. (2015). Nets and frames, losses and gains: Value struggles in engagements with biodiversity offsetting policy in England. Ecosystem Services, 15, 162-173.