Geography Research Talk Thursday, March 19, 12:30pm in Room 229 of the Department of Geography Jessica Dempsey Assistant Professor, University of Victoria, School of Environmental Studies Illiquid natures: tracing “for-profit” biodiversity conservation capital Mainstream environmentalism and critical scholarship alike are abuzz with the promise and perils of what I call “enterprising nature”: attempts to produce the conditions in which biodiverse ecosystems, or parts of ecosystems, can compete in state governance and in the marketplace. But to what extent is conserved nature being sold in order to save it? In this presentation I examine the size, scope and character of international ‘for profit’ biodiversity conservation. Despite the exploding rhetoric of ‘natural capital’ and ‘environmental markets’ over the last two decades, my research shows that the capital flowing in this space is small, geographically constrained, seeks little to no profit, and is better characterized as moving at the speed of cold molasses rather than as zipping around the planet at the speed of light. The marginality and illiquid character of for-profit conservation capital leads me to conclude that it is largely ‘non-performative’ as both an accumulation and conservation financing strategy: there is far more talk than investor walk. Such evidence is at odds with the way that this sector is portrayed in mainstream environmental conservation literature, where what is going on is often described as a teleological next step towards a desired ‘green capitalism’, but also in critical geographical scholarship, which tends to cast it as a feared commodification or financialization of everything. Rather, what I present is a more puzzling situation: enterprising nature seems like an ‘easy fix’ to ecological degradation, tailor-made for our austerity bound, market-governance times, and yet it remains negligible to global capital flows. The project still has consequential and deeply uneven effects, but I suggest that these effects are not epochal new transformations of socioecological relations. Rather, the effects of enterprising nature are to re-embed status quo accumulation, re-affirm hegemonic and colonial power-knowledge relations, and instill neoliberal political rationality within conservation organizations and experts.
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