200 NGOs and experts warn against UN plan to protect 30 percent of the planet by 2030

Contributed by Jonathan Mazower, Survival International

The One Planet Summit for biodiversity in Paris last month confirmed the agenda of many governments, and the conservation industry, to push ahead with a plan to place at least 30 percent of the Earth’s surface under conservation status by 2030.

Organized by France in cooperation with the UN and the World Bank, the summit launched the “High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People,” to drive progress towards the “30×30” target. 

But two hundred NGOs and experts have now signed a warning that the drive to increase global protected areas such as national parks could ruin the lives of hundreds of millions of people, and do nothing to preserve biodiversity.

In a letter to the Secretariat of the UN Convention on Biodiversity (CBD), the NGOs warn that as many as 300 million people could be dispossessed unless there are much stronger protections for the rights of indigenous peoples and other land-dependent communities.

Later this year, the Conference of Parties to the CBD is set to agree on the new 30×30 plan. It would double the current protected land area over the coming decade.

Many indigenous representatives, such as Archana Soreng of the Kharia tribe and Pranab Doley of the Mising people, have been campaigning against the 30% target. 

Together with Survival International, the global movement for the rights of tribal peoples, they’ve declared that it will constitute the biggest land grab in world history and reduce hundreds of millions of people to landless poverty. Survival’s campaign calls the plan the #BigGreenLie.

In many parts of the world a Protected Area is where the local people who called the land home for generations are no longer allowed to live or use the natural environment to feed their families, gather medicinal plants or visit their sacred sites. This follows the model of the United States’ nineteenth century creation of the world’s first national parks on lands stolen from Native Americans. Many US national parks forced the peoples who had created the wildlife-rich “wilderness” landscapes into landlessness and poverty.

This is still happening to indigenous peoples and other communities in Africa and parts of Asia. Local people are pushed out by force, coercion or bribery. They are beaten, tortured and abused by park rangers when they try to hunt to feed their families or just to access their ancestral lands. The best guardians of the land, once self-sufficient and with the lowest carbon footprint of any of us, are reduced to landless impoverishment and often end up adding to urban overcrowding.

Around the world, indigenous peoples are increasingly denouncing the conservation industry as a “source of threats and a source of violation of indigenous rights,” and repeatedly speak out against threats to evict them in the name of conservation.

Insights Invited COB 5/29 – Transformative Conservation in Social-Ecological Systems

Over the past year or so, a small team of us worked on a discussion paper on transformative conservation (click here to view/download) for the 2020 World Conservation Congress (now postponed to January 2021). (We are members of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Commission on Ecosystem Management.) The paper will provide the basis for a few events at the Congress, and draws heavily on political ecology as well as resilience thinking.

In the paper we argue that transformative conservation

  • Rethinks the relationships between nature, society, individuals, and risk in light of nature’s contributions to people, equity and justice, and sustainable development goals;
  • Restructures systems to create durable change at large geographic, ecological, political-economic, and demographic scales; and
  • Ultimately conserves biodiversity while justly transitioning to net negative emissions economies and securing the sustainable and regenerative use of natural resources.

By close of business on Friday, May 29, we are inviting anyone interested to comment on the paper and provide insights. We welcome your input!

Read more

Biodiversity and the blind spot of nature conservation policy

By Esther Turnhout, Wageningen University

The IPBES Global Assessment has made clear that the causes of biodiversity loss are located outside of protected areas, yet this remains the focus of much of conservation policy. Addressing this blind spot is challenging, but necessary for effective and just biodiversity governance and nature conservation.

Read full essay

CfP POLLEN20 – ‘Defenders’, atmospheres of violence in conservation, extraction, and ‘sustainable’ development

Session organizers

If you are interested in contributing a paper, please send a title and abstract to Mary Menton (m.menton@sussex.ac.uk) by 15 November. If you would like to express interest or discuss the session proposal before sending an abstract, please get in touch with Mary, Philippe LeBillon (Philippe.lebillon@ubc.ca) and/or Peter Larsen (peter.larsen@unigh.che)

Session description

This session will address the atmospheres and dynamics of violence surrounding conservation and development projects. Global Witness reports have highlighted the murders of ‘environmental and land defenders’, recording 1748 killings since 2002. For every ‘defender’ murdered, thousands more are threatened, criminalised, and suffer attempts to repress their struggles. This session proposal, which complements the ‘Who/what is an environmental defender?’ panel proposal, explores the drivers and wider contexts of these murders, but also the different forms of violence experienced by environmental defenders, by those who fight for land rights, and other groups who fight against the powerful actors who perpetuate violence against them. We invite papers that explore these issues in the context of ‘sustainable’ development, ‘green’ development, conservation, or extractive industries.

CfP POLLEN20 – Prefiguring Indigeneity at Capitalist Frontiers: Conservation-Extractivism and Resource Making in the Age of Climate Change

Third Biennial Conference of the Political Ecology Network (POLLEN 20)
Contested Natures: Power, Possibility, Prefiguration
Brighton, United Kingdom
24-26 June 2020

Session organizers

Melis Ece, British Academy Newton International Fellow, School of Global Studies, Anthropology, University of Sussex, UK (me329@sussex.ac.uk)

James Fairhead, Anthropology, University of Sussex, UK (j.r.fairhead@sussex.ac.uk)

Madhuri Karak, Mellon/ACLS Public Fellow, Washington D.C., US (madhuri.karak@gmail.com)

This panel invites contributions of 300-500 words or less from academics and practitioners working in any geographical region. Please email your abstracts to Melis Ece (me329@sussex.ac.uk) and Madhuri Karak (mkarak@rare.org) by November 20, 2019.

Session description

Resource conservation and extractivism increasingly merge in forested frontiers of the Global South as conservation becomes a ‘for profit’ endeavour linked to climate finance and climate commodity markets.  Extractive mining projects claim carbon or biodiversity offsets for ‘landscape restauration’ and, forest carbon conservation projects aim at “revenue-generating” via carbon credits and extractive activities.

Although they commodify and financialize different ‘bits and pieces of nature’ (McAffee 2015, Sullivan 2013, Leach and Scoones 2015), extractivism and conservation share many similarities. They both create enabling conditions for resource grabbing (Fairhead et al. 2012; Borras et al. 2011; Kelly 2015; Kay 2018). Yet, neither of them can be considered to simply commodify ‘natural’ resources, as both depend greatly on ‘resource-making processes’ that bring together or “assemble” specific governance and market relations and a wide array of actors in the creation and valuing of ‘resources’ (Li 2004; Corson et al. 2019).

Recent work in political ecology has focused on the importance of material qualities of the resource-in-the making (Bakker and Bridge 2006) as well as on the production of ‘socio-natural resource commodities’, shaped by ‘situated histories’ of violent territorialisations, primitive accumulation, and privatization (Peluso 2012).  Less discussed are the ways in which notions of indigeneity, autochthony and belonging are brought into this assemblage, whether in the creation and valuation of resources or dialectically in prefiguring counterstrategies against market-based conservation and extractivism.

Notions of indigeneity (or autochthony) have long been important tropes in the governance of peoples and resources in variegated colonial and postcolonial, national histories and geographies of the Global South. They have played a key role in framing and re-organizing “natural resources,” re-shaping local relations with the natural world and in re(constructing) territorialized conceptions of belonging.  In the era of climate “crisis”, the place of indigeneity has intensified as a central aspect of resource making. Those driving ‘resource making’ in accordance with market prerogatives do not only seek to make the resources legible to capital (Robertson 2006) and to the state (Scott 1998). They also endeavour to render extractive or conservation regimes legitimate and persuasive. In this context, the existence of an ‘indigenous’ community with legitimate claims may help conservation and extractive initiatives claim ‘inclusivity’, drawing the community itself into assemblages that ‘make resources.’ However, indigeneity may also become a sign post around which community counter-claims and counter-strategies are prefigured and enacted.

This panel invites papers to reflect on one or more of the following questions:

  • In what ways has indigeneity and its experience become entangled in resource making processes, assemblages and practices?
  • What new challenges are faced by peoples positioned (cf. Hall 1995, Li 2000) as indigenous/autochthonous when drawn into assemblages that are rendering their environment as a resource.
  • What forms of exclusion, erasure and conflicts are being enacted as a result of indigenous peoples’ recruitment into market-based assemblages of conservation-extractivism?

CfP POLLEN20 – Decolonizing Conservation in Theory and Praxis

The Third Biennial Conference of the Political Ecology Network (POLLEN20)
Contested Natures: Power, Possibility, Prefiguration
Brighton, United Kingdom
24-26 June 2020

Session organizers

Megan Youdelis (University of Guelph) & Justine Townsend (University of Guelph).

Please send abstracts of 250 words or less to Megan Youdelis (megan.youdelis@uoguelph.ca) and Justine Townsend (justine.townsend@uoguelph.ca) no later than November 18th. Presenters accepted for the paper session will need to register for the conference and upload their abstracts by November 22nd.

Session description

Conservation enclosures led by states, NGOs, and industry have too often served to expand the territorial control of colonial and modern nation states while alienating and displacing Indigenous communities from their traditional territories (Agrawal and Redford, 2009; Stevens, 2014; West et al., 2006). Such fortress-style enclosures stem from colonial ontologies that understand humans as external to non-human nature with no direct positive role to play within their ecosystems (Adams and Mulligan, 2003; Cronon, 1996). In addition to entrenching poverty and negatively impacting Indigenous cultures and identities, the establishment of protected areas in territories long managed by Indigenous communities has been shown to result in adverse environmental effects, such as increased deforestation and loss of biodiversity (Armitage, 2002; Roth, 2008; West, 2006). As commercial entities, conventional conservation models have also supported an unsustainable capitalist political economy of conservation while foreclosing alternatives (Coulthard, 2014; Youdelis et al., Forthcoming).

Attempts to incorporate Indigenous peoples into conventional management models through either co-management, community-based natural resource management, or market-based approaches to conservation have also been critiqued for replicating colonial power relations and patterns of dispossession (Mabee and Hoberg, 2006; Dressler and Roth, 2011: Sandlos, 2014). In order to foster truly emancipatory sustainabilities, what will be required is nothing short of a foundational shift away from colonial conservation strategies towards conservation models and practice rooted in Indigenous knowledge systems, designed in accordance with Indigenous law and through relationships forged in Ethical Space (see Crowshoe and Ermine, 2014; ICE, 2018).

Fortunately, we have some indications of what such Indigenous-led conservation mechanisms might look like, as Indigenous communities around the world assert their sovereignty and care for their territories in ways that restore and protect ecological diversity and cultural identity. Indigenous nations around the world have been declaring Indigenous-led conservation areas in ways that challenge the colonial politics of recognition (Coulthard, 2014; Godden and Cowell, 2016; ICCA Consortium, n.d.; Murray and King, 2012). These spaces are declarations of sovereignty and may facilitate language and cultural revitalization, conservation of cultural keystone species, protection of the land for future generations, and the creation of reciprocal conservation economies.

In this session we invite papers that interrogate what decolonizing conservation will entail, both theoretically and materially. We also invite explorations into, and examples of, cross-cultural and decolonial collaborations, and expressions of allyship in support of Indigenous-led conservation. Finally, we invite critical analysis on the rise of Indigenous-led conservation within the broader colonial/capitalist political economy.

  • Relevant topics include, but are not limited to:
  • Case studies of decolonial conservation
  • Decolonial ontologies of conservation
  • Reconciliation through conservation
  • Indigenous nationhood, sovereignty, and leadership
  • Indigenous-led governance models
  • Biocultural conservation and outcomes
  • Conservation as resistance
  • Conservation economies
  • Settler allyship
  • Legislation and policy
  • Challenges to, and opportunities for, implementation
  • Indigenous law and knowledge systems


Adams,W. M., and M. Mulligan, Decolonizing nature strategies for conservation in a postcolonial era. London; Sterling, VA: Earthscan Publications, 2003.

Agrawal, A., and K. Redford, “Conservation and displacement: An overview,” Conserv. Soc., vol. 7, no. 1, pp. 1–10, 2009.

Armitage, D., “Socio-institutional dynamics and the political ecology of mangrove forest conservation in Central Sulawesi, Indonesia,” Glob. Environ. Chang., vol. 12, pp. 203–217, 2002.

Coulthard, G., Red skin, white masks: Rejecting the colonial politics of recognition. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014.

Cronon, W., Uncommon ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature. W.W. Norton & Co, 1996.

Crowshoe, R., and Ermine, “Honoring our knowledge gifts: Aboriginal research symposium,” in Ethical space as ceremony: Between worldviews (keynote address), 2014, p. November 14.

Dressler, W., and R. Roth, “The Good, the Bad, and the Contradictory: Neoliberal Conservation Governance in Rural Southeast Asia,” World Dev., vol. 39, no. 5, pp. 851–862, 2011.

Godden, L. and S. Cowell, “Conservation planning and Indigenous governance in Australia’s Indigenous Protected Areas,” Restoration Ecology, vol. 24, no. 5, pp. 692–697, 2016.

“ICC A Consortium.” [Online]. Available: https://www.iccaconsortium.org. [Accessed: 10-Oct-2019].

Indigenous Circles of Experts (ICE), We Rise Together: Achieving Pathway to Canada Target 1 through the creation of Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas in the Spirit of Practice of Reconciliation. The Indigenous Circle of Experts’ Report and Recommendations., no. March. 2018.

Little Bear, L., E. Carlson, T. Tatsey, H. Augere, P. Fox, and K. Aune, “Innii Initiative: ‘Blackfoot and Buffalo’ – Ecosystem Restoration and Cultural Repatriation.” 2014. 50.

Mabee, H. S., and G. Hoberg, “Equal partners? Assessing comanagement of forest resources in clayoquot sound,” Soc. Nat. Resour., vol. 19, no. 10, pp. 875–888, Nov. 2006.

Murray, G. and L. King, “First Nations values in protected area governance: Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks and Pacific Rim National Park Reserve,” Hum. Ecol., vol. 40, pp. 385–395, 2012.

Roth, R., “‘Fixing’ the forest: The spatiality of conservation conflict in Thailand,” Ann. Assoc. Am. Geogr., vol. 98, no. 2, pp. 373–391, 2008.

Sandlos, J., “National Parks in the Canadian north: Comanagement or colonialism revisited? Indigneous peoples, national parks, and protected areas,” in Indigneous Peoples, National Parks, and Protected Areas, S. Stevens, Ed. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2014, pp. 133–149.

Stevens, S., Indigenous peoples, national parks, and protected areas. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2014.

West, P., Conservation is our government now: The politics of ecology in Papua New Guinea. Durham: Duke University Press, 2006.

West, P., J. Igoe, and D. Brockington, “Parks and peoples: The social impact of protected areas,” Annu. Rev. Anthropol., vol. 35, no. 2006, pp. 251–277, 2006.

Youdelis, M., R. Nakoochee, C. O’neil, L. Lunstrum, and R. Roth, “Wilderness revisited: Is Canadian park management moving beyond the wilderness ethic?,” The Canadian Geographer, Forthcoming.

CfP POLLEN 20 – Papers, procedures, and plants: Expanding the political ecology of bureaucracy

Session organizers

Scott Freeman (American University) and Raquel Machaqueiro (George Washington University). Please, send your abstract (250 words) by October 25 to Scott Freeman (freeman@american.edu) and Raquel Machaqueiro (rrmachaqueiro@gmail.com).

Session description

Interdisciplinary political ecology has exposed environmental conservation efforts as a domain in which multiple conceptualizations of space, time, and nature intersect and are forged (Neumann 1998; Hughes 2005; West 2006). The institutions involved in these intersections are broad and varied: states, multi-laterals, non-governmental actors, grassroots organizations and combinations therein all contribute to the broad effects of conservation practice. What unites much of conservation practice, regardless of the organizations involved, is the negotiation and continuous deployment of bureaucracy.

In this panel, we interrogate the bureaucratic practices within conservation, and the social worlds that are produced as a result. Bureaucracies do not neutrally encounter an objective world, but interpret and create, defining problems and making them amenable to bureaucratic intervention (Barnett and Finnemore 2004). Accordingly, bureaucracies are machines for the production of documents, inscriptions which are then used to stabilize particular problematizations and interpretations of the world (Gupta 2012, Hull 2012). Such practices produce their own authority through regularity and repetition that may include the mundane filing of forms, ticking of boxes, or writing of formulaic reports according to standardized templates (Feldman 2008). In doing so, bureaucracies respond to calls for transparency, audit, or fiscal discipline, but may simultaneously produce social exclusion and precarity (Bear and Mathur 2015, Hetherington 2011). Rather than producing visibility, they may propagate secrecy and ignorances about the world (Weber 1973, Sanders and West 2003).

As bureaucracy comes to bare on conservation practice, new forms of environmental governance emerge and new social realms are produced. The needs of populations and their environmental problems are defined through environmental regulatory regimes (Goldman 2001). Yet the implementation of conservation through states is rarely monolithic. Environmental projects and policies are often faced with the “mundane set of everyday failures by local government” (Brockington 2007: 845), whose practices illuminate the inherent contradictory nature of state bureaucracies (Neumann 2001). In examining environmental bureaucracy, even the role of policy is limited, as bureaucratic forms like the project become far more important for implementers (Li 2016).

This panel explores both the many facets of bureaucracy and the conflicts, contestations, and negotiations that occur as bureaucratic governance unfolds. We hope to examine the way in which documents as well as soils and forests become sites for negotiation, and how practitioners as well as beneficiaries navigate projects. We are equally intrigued by the ways that time and space are forged through bureaucratic practices. In particular, we will address the following questions:

  • What kinds of powers, possibilities, and prefigurations are produced by bureaucracy within environmental conservation?
  • What types of ignorance, injustices, and irrationalities are produced by environmental bureaucracies?
  • What is the role of bureaucracy in the construction of “successful” environmental interventions?
  • How are space and time produced through the demands of documentation and measurement of conservation projects?
  • How are bureaucracies negotiated from within and outside of conservation organizations?

Papers may also address:

  • Bureaucratic expert knowledge (and its deployment)
  • Participation/enrollment of different stakeholders (practitioners, donors, local authorities, beneficiaries) in bureaucratic procedures
  • Forms of power/authority produced by bureaucratic procedures (including funding)
  • Intersection of bureaucracies and the role of market-based instruments in environmental governance
  • Audits and measurement in conservation practice


Barnett, Michael, and Martha Finnemore. 2004. Rules for the World – International Organizations in Global Politics. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press.

Bear, Laura, and Nayanika Mathur. 2015. Introduction: Remaking the Public Good: A New Anthropology of Bureaucracy. The Cambridge Journal of Anthropology 33(1).

Brockington, Dan. 2007. “Forests, Community Conservation, and Local Government Performance: The Village Forest Reserves of Tanzania.” Society & Natural Resources 20 (9): 835–48. https://doi.org/10.1080/08941920701460366.

Feldman, Ilana. 2008. Governing Gaza – Bureaucracy, Authority, and the Work of Rule, 1917-1967. Durham and London: Duke University Press.

Ferguson, James. 1994. The Anti-Politics Machine – “Development”, Depoliticization, and Bureaucratic Power in Lesotho. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press.

Goldman, Michael. 2001. “Constructing an Environmental State: Eco-Governmentality and Other Transnational Practices of a ‘Green’ World Bank.” Social Problems 48 (4): 499–523.

Gupta, Akhil. 2012. Red Tape: Bureaucracy, Structural Violence, and Poverty in India. Durham and London: Duke University Press.

Hetherington, Kregg. 2011.Guerrilla Auditors: The Politics of Transparency in Neoliberal Paraguay. Durham: Duke University Press.

Hughes, David McDermott. 2005. “Third Nature: Making Space and Time in the Great Limpopo Conservation Area.” Cultural Anthropology 20 (2): 157–84.

Hull, Matthew S. 2012. Government of Paper – The Materiality of Bureaucracy in Urban Pakistan. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press.

Li, Tania Murray. 2016. “Governing Rural Indonesia: Convergence on the Project System.” Critical Policy Studies 10 (1): 79–94. https://doi.org/10.1080/19460171.2015.1098553.

Neumann, Roderick P. 2001. Africa’s ‘Last Wilderness’: Reordering Space for Political and Economic Control in Colonial Tanzania. Africa 71(04): 641–665.

Neumann, Roderick P. 1998. Imposing Wilderness: Struggles Over Livelihood and Nature Preservation in Africa. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press.

Weber, Max. 1946. From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology. Gerth and Mills. New York: Oxford University Press.

West, Harry G., and Todd Sanders. 2003. Transparency and Conspiracy: Ethnographies of Suspicion in the New World Order. Durham and London: Duke University Press.

West, Paige. 2006. Conservation Is Our Government Now – The Politics of Ecology in Papua New Guinea. Durham and London: Duke University Press.

Tourism, labour and the rhino poaching crisis in South Africa

By Stasja Koot, 12 December 2017

In the Kruger to Canyon (K2C) region, South Africa, there are two big phenomena of which the interactions have so far hardly been researched: tourism and the rhino poaching crisis. Based on four field trips to South Africa in 2016/17, totalling about 3 months, I have investigated these links, and here I wish to present some first ideas. In particular, I wish to explain one important tension that I observed; the role of labour in tourism and how this is related to the rhino poaching crisis. Read more

2nd CfP & extended deadline (5 Dec. 2017), POLLEN18 – Accumulation by Restoration

We have already received a number of excellent and exciting submissions for this session, but have decided to re-circulate the call with an extended deadline of 5 December in hope of making this a double session. Please send abstracts of no more than 300 words to both Amber Huff (a.huff@ids.ac.uk) and Andrea Brock (a.brock@sussex.ac.uk) before 5 December 2017. Please do not hesitate to email us with any questions. We have also recently published a short companion piece online in Antipode’s online Interventions section titled ‘Accumulation by Restoration: Degradation Neutrality and the Faustian Bargain of Conservation Finance’.

CfP POLLEN 18 – Accumulation by Restoration
Political Ecology Network (POLLEN) biennial conference, Oslo, 20 – 22 June 2018

Organised by Amber Huff (Institute of Development Studies and STEPS Centre) and Andrea Brock (University of Sussex)

Extended deadline for abstracts – 5 December 2017 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 (a.huff@ids.ac.uk) and Andrea Brock (a.brock@sussex.ac.uk) before 30 November 5 December 2017. Upon acceptance, applicants will still have to register through the POLLEN website in January.

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.

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