Archive for the ‘Conservation’ Category

Development and Change Forum 2012 (with a Debate section on Nature™ Inc.) is out!

See: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/dech.2012.43.issue-1/issuetoc  or go to the publications page to download the introduction to the debate section.


Edited by Murat Arsel and Bram Büscher



Post-neoliberalism in Latin America: Rebuilding and Reclaiming the State after Crisis (pages 1–21)

Jean Grugel and Pía Riggirozzi

Fight or Acquiesce? Religion and Political Process in Turkey’s and Egypt’s Neoliberalizations (pages 23–51)

Cihan Tuğal

Debate: Nature™ Inc.

Nature™ Inc.: Changes and Continuities in Neoliberal Conservation and Market-based Environmental Policy (pages 53–78)

Murat Arsel and Bram Büscher

What’s Nature Got To Do With It? A Situated Historical Perspective on Socio-natural Commodities (pages 79–104)

Nancy Lee Peluso

The Contradictory Logic of Global Ecosystem Services Markets (pages 105–131)

Kathleen McAfee

Market Masquerades: Uncovering the Politics of Community-level Payments for Environmental Services in Cambodia (pages 133–158)

Sarah Milne and Bill Adams

‘TEEB Begins Now’: A Virtual Moment in the Production of Natural Capital (pages 159–184)

Kenneth Iain MacDonald and Catherine Corson

Biodiversity for Billionaires: Capitalism, Conservation and the Role of Philanthropy in Saving/Selling Nature (pages 185–203)

George Holmes

Consuming the Forest in an Environment of Crisis: Nature Tourism, Forest Conservation and Neoliberal Agriculture in South India (pages 205–227)

Daniel Münster and Ursula Münster

The Tragedy of the Commodity and the Farce of AquAdvantage Salmon® (pages 229–251)

Rebecca Clausen and Stefano B. Longo

Geoengineering: Re-making Climate for Profit or Humanitarian Intervention? (pages 253–270)

Holly Jean Buck

How do Investors Value Environmental Harm/Care? Private Equity Funds, Development Finance Institutions and the Partial Financialization of Nature-based Industries (pages 271–293)

Sarah Bracking

Using the Master’s Tools? Neoliberal Conservation and the Evasion of Inequality (pages 295–317)

Robert Fletcher


Fred Halliday: Engagements, Languages, Myths and Solidarities (pages 319–339)

David Styan


Joan Martinez-Alier (pages 341–359)

Lorenzo Pellegrini

Çağlar Keyder (pages 361–373)

Tuna Kuyucu


Preempting Possibility: Critical Assessment of the IEA’s World Energy Outlook 2010 (pages 375–393)

Mazen Labban

Power Inequalities in Explaining the Link between Natural Hazards and Unnatural Disasters (pages 395–407)

Fikret Adaman

A Radically Conservative Vision? The Challenge of UNEP’s Towards a Green Economy (pages 409–422)

Dan Brockington

World Development Report 2012: Gender Equality and Development— A Commentary (pages 423–437)

Shahra Razavi

Poverty Alleviation and Smallholder Agriculture: The Rural Poverty Report 2011 (pages 439–448)

Jan Douwe van der Ploeg


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Old Land-New Practices? The Changing Face of Land and Conservation in Postcolonial Africa

11th – 14th September 2012, Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa

Organised by Georgina Barrett (Rhodes University), Nqobile Zulu (University of Witwatersrand), Jenny Josefsson and Shirley Brooks (University of the Free State).

The ‘land issue’ is omnipresent across post-colonial Africa. It is a highly contentious and contested topic, which at times has proven explosive (Zimbabwe, Kenya), or else a persistent focus of identity politics (Tanzania, Sudan), or central to historically rooted struggles for equality and restitution (South Africa, Botswana). Yet, the legacy of colonial land use management from which these struggles are borne, continues to inform contemporary conservation policy practices. They are also conceptualised and legitimated by a fusion of international environmental and neoliberal market agendas and regional and national policy exigencies, framed by diverse socio-economic development challenges. One of many ‘solutions’ borne of this conjuncture has been the spread of conservation and environmental protection strategies which promise to ‘deliver’ on the requisite national economic and environmental priorities in adherence to broader international and regional prerogatives. Such promises are bound to the success of market orientated strategies for the preservation of Africa’s biodiversity. Furthermore, they are tied to the commoditisation of wildlife and wild spaces, and the
‘mass production’ thereof in a range of state-owned, private or joint partnership ventures, including parks, farms and conservancies. The results are not yet fully comprehensible, but it is evident that the post-colonial echoes the colonial, and in this continuity conservation and environmental protection strategies may perpetuate historical insecurities through the alienation of local communities from land ownership and management practices.

This conference was inspired by conversations amongst attendees of the Nature Inc. conference held at the Institute for Social Sciences (ISS) at The Hague in June 2011 interested in the complex issues surrounding land, conservation, and ‘security’ within an African context. It therefore aims to contribute to the development and sharing of knowledge and expertise with an explicitly pan-African focus. Specifically, it seeks to critically engage with the nexus between post-colonial land use changes and the development of conservation initiatives across the continent at both the theoretical and practical level with cognisance of their historical precedence.

The conference will be organised around the following themes:
• Conservation as a post-colonial land use option
• Historical and contemporary ecological imperialism
• Land use and identity politics
• Gender dynamics and conservation land use strategies
• Alienation, (in)security and conflict
• State and private environmental/conservation agendas
• Community-based natural resource management
• Market driven environmentalism and conservation in Africa
• Continuities and divergences in colonial (and apartheid) and post-colonial environmental
• Theoretical debates and practical realities- never the twain shall meet?

For more information about registration, paper and panel submissions, guest speakers, field trips and the opportunity to publish papers in a special edition of Journal of Contemporary African Studies, amongst others, go to the conference website HERE.

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AT the ISS we have a vacancy for Postdoctoral researcher “Agrarian and Environmental Change” (1.0 FTE), for a period of 2.5 years (30 Months).

The Blurb: the successful candidate is expected to bring innovative research capacity to the ISS in the field of Agrarian and Environmental Studies, complementing and/or extending our work, among others, on environmental conservation, natural resource conflicts, and land grabs. The specific objective of the appointment is for a recently graduated (or soon to graduate) PhD to publish results from previous research, initiate new research, and contribute to the formulation and writing of research (grant) proposals (0.8 FTE), and to develop teaching experience that will enable her/him to make the transition from PhD researcher to an academic professional (0.2 FTE). Thematically, these activities will be focused on the broad areas of critical Agrarian and Environmental Studies, but the ideal candidate should have experience and be willing to conduct research in the specific areas of environmental conservation, political ecology and natural resource use and management from a critical political economy perspective.

For more information, please see the ISS website, or send me an email (buscher AT iss DOT nl)!

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I am currently doing an incredibly exciting trip across Zambia, Malawi and northern Mozambique, about which I will try to post something in the next couple of day. First I wanted to share another exciting piece of news, namely that my Veni grant application was approved by the Dutch national research council NWO. This means 3 years of dedicated research, starting 2012!

The full title of the project is: Nature 2.0: the political economy of conservation in online and Southern African environments

And the summary of the proposal goes as follows:
Web 2.0 and social media applications that allow people to share, form and rate online content are crucial new ways for conservation organizations to reach audiences and for concerned individuals and organisations to be (seen as) „green‟. Recent research indicates that these developments might significantly change the political economy of conservation: the production and consumption of conservation and their social effects. Two important changes relate to how online activities stimulate and complicate the commodification of biodiversity, ecosystems and landscapes and how they help to reimagine ideas and ideals about „pristine‟ nature. Above all, this „nature 2.0‟ now (seemingly) allows those concerned about global biodiversity and ecosystem decline to more directly engage with and influence the governance of socio-ecological realities in other parts of the world. The research aims to investigate these transformations in relation to biodiverse areas in Southern Africa, a region with a chequered history of western-imposed conservation. Three questions are central: How do online, web 2.0 and social media conservation activities relate to and influence the governance of biodiverse areas in Southern Africa and the people who live there? Why and how do these activities depend on the reimagination and commodification of nature? What are the implications of these dynamics for (theorizing) the global political economy of conservation?
Innovatively combining insights and methods from political ecology, anthropology and media studies, the research will engage these questions by studying how online activities relate to, shape and reflect other social, political and economic practices. It transcends conventional empirical research by connecting actors, actions and technologies involved in the production and consumption of conservation across space and time. In times of increasing tensions between biodiversity decline and demands for human development, the practical and theoretical implications of the study will be highly relevant for sustainable global and local natural resource governance.

Considering the topic, it will become even more important to regularly post research outcomes and progress online! 🙂

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For those interested in what is happening at Nature™ Inc in the Hague, I am blogging about the conference on the Broker website. Follow it all here:

Nature INC on the Broker

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Just one week before the Nature™ Inc conference gets going! For the latest information, see the conference website. ISS just sent out a press release in English and Dutch, see below:


The Hague, 20 June 2011


 According to the United Nations, the Green Economy is supposed to solve three crises in one: global economic malaise, chronic poverty and the destruction of the environment. Too good to be true? 200+ social scientists convening at the international conference Nature™ Inc? Questioning the Market Panacea in Environmental Policy and Conservation, argue it is. In a time when market solutions to environmental problems seem generally accepted, this largest ever gathering of social scientists critical of these solutions will convene from 30 June – 2 July 2011 at the International Institute of Social Studies in The Hague, The Netherlands. Drawing on global perspectives and evidence from their field sites, they will sound a stern warning that the Green Economy will not only do little to address the three global crises but actually make them worse.

Participants at Nature™ Inc? will critically address the one issue that all international organizations, governments, businesses, NGOs have difficulty engaging: neoliberal capitalism. We live in neoliberal times and this powerful ideology is shaping economic, political and environmental realities across the globe. Yet no policy or strategy document about the environment ever starts with this fact or its implications. 200 scientists believe it is time to change this with serious discussions about the origins, reach and consequences of the true nature of economy we are in, and what effects it has on people and the environment.


Den Haag, 20 juni 2011

 200+ wetenschappers twijfelen aan de Groene Economie

Volgens de Verenigde Naties is de ‘Groene Economie’ het antwoord op drie mondiale crises: de kredietcrisis, het armoedevraagstuk en de degradatie van het milieu. Te mooi om waar te zijn? ‘Ja’, zeggen meer dan 200 wetenschappers die deelnemen aan de internationale conferentie Nature™ Inc? Questioning the Market Panacea in Environmental Policy and Conservation. In een tijd waar ‘marktwerking’ als standaardoplossing voor milieuproblemen wordt aangedragen wordt van 30 juni tot 2 juli bij het International Institute of Social Studies in Den Haag één van de grootste wetenschappelijke bijeenkomsten ooit gehouden gericht op een kritisch tegengeluid. Gebaseerd op wetenschappelijke inzichten uit onderzoek van over de hele wereld zullen de wetenschappers een sterke waarschuwing laten klinken dat de Groene Economie zoals voorgestaan door de VN en vele invloedrijke landen en organisaties niet alleen weinig zal doen aan de drie mondiale crises, maar ze zelfs zal verslechteren.

 Deelnemers aan Nature™ Inc zullen zich vooral richten op de vraag die bijna alle internationale organisaties, overheden, bedrijven en goede doelen vermijden in hun retoriek over de groene economie: welke kans van slagen heeft het in een kapitalistische context? Volgens dr. Bram Büscher, universitair docent bij het ISS en hoofdorganisator van de conferentie, is de groene economie niet simpelweg een technische oplossing, zoals het vaak word gepresenteerd. Het is een politieke strategie om het huidige kapitalisme een groen tintje te geven, terwijl het overduidelijk is dat de globale milieuproblemen zoals klimaatverandering en verlies van biodiversiteit juist ontstaan zijn door twee eeuwen kapitalistische ontwikkeling. “Om deze oplossing op waarde te schatten is het van vitaal belang om diepere kennis te hebben over en kritisch te reflecteren op het verband tussen kapitalistische structuren en het milieu. Helaas wordt dit debat niet gevoerd”, aldus Büscher. Meer dan 200 wetenschappers vinden dat dit moet veranderen, en dat we eindelijk een serieuze discussie aan moeten gaan over de daadwerkelijke aard van onze mondiale economie, en de negatieve gevolgen voor milieu en mens.

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I am just back from a week fieldwork in the Okavango Delta in Botswana. It was a very interesting trip, which helped me question some (of my own) engrained thinking patterns. I came here as part of the EU-sponsored DARMA project that aims to stimulate and strengthen local African commonage systems where people manage their natural resources communally rather than privately. We started off in Maun where our partner is located, the Okavango Research Institute (ORI) of the University of Botswana. Now, Maun is a funny place. It oozes wildlife safaris. This is clear when arriving at the tiny airport: dozens of safari companies are present, picking up guests and displaying their offerings. Many people flying into Maun don’t even stay there; they are picked up and put straight on one of the many tiny aircraft waiting to take tourists into some private camp in the delta. Many posters, brochures, flags and paraphernalia in the airport building extol the incredible wildlife assets of the Delta, reinforcing all of the stereotypical images that tourists have come to expect of ‘wild’ Africa. This continues outside of the building, where in the direct vicinity of the airport, most major safari enterprises are located. Shops in Maun also play into the safari image and everywhere you see whites in Khakis driving sturdy 4x4s, organizing what are mainly high-end, often incredibly expensive wildlife experiences. Some operators even charge up to 2000-3000 US$ per night! Of course your champagne is then chilled on arrival and your ‘bushcamp’ adorned with all modern luxuries. In this environment, it is hard to think of the Delta as something other than one giant safari operation. But of course, this is an incredibly skewed and misleading image.

Superbly organized by the super-dynamic and smart couple Lapo and Innocent Magole – the driving force behind the DARMA project in Botswana – we set out into the Delta for our own trip into the ‘bush’. And although I always knew there are many people living in the area, it was incredibly refreshing to focus completely on the livelihoods of these people and not on wildlife. Indeed, in our time in the Delta, we didn’t see any wild animal, safe for half a crocodile and a lost leopard tortoise! And this is exactly what helped me question my own engrained thinking patterns: because the landscape looks like a ‘typical’ safari landscape, you constantly expect an elephant, warthog, buffalo or – perhaps – a lion to appear. But they never did. Instead we saw many goats, cows and donkeys, and many people trying to make a living in a challenging environment. In several community meetings in different villages we were told how wild animals continuously pose a threat to livestock, crops and the lives of people and indeed how on average communities come into conflict with wildlife 3-4 times a day. This of course is a reality that few tourists appreciate. The far majority flies in and out of private camps and is usually shielded from the social consequences of living with dangerous animals (see for example this website, or this one). Yet this is reality for the people in the Delta, something they live with every day.

Now, this is not a rant ‘against’ wildlife – far from it. Many of these animals are amazing, and surely it would have been nice to see them. But for those of us not living with dangerous wildlife, it is all too easy to ignore local people’s challenging realities, let alone the global inequalities that lead to the crazy contradiction of wealthy tourists spending thousands of dollars a day to see wildlife in luxurious settings while being shielded from – and indeed further complicating – the difficult circumstances and dangers that local people face. The safari imagery so prominent upon arrival in Maun further reinforces this contradiction and the inequalities in which they are rooted. The deeper understanding of this reality was for me one of the highlights of this trip (and the reason why I and colleagues – see the VIVA page! – write what we write). The Okavango Delta without wildlife is totally worth it and I can recommend it to anyone.

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