Producing Value from Nature: Natural Capital Accounting and the Political Performativity of Economistic Environmental Governance

Authors: Peter Wilshusen*, Bucknell University
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Environment, Economic Geography
Keywords: value, valuation, assemblage, political performativity, natural capital accounting, biodiversity
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Galerie 4, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


A significant number of conservation organizations and related actors promote natural capital accounting as a means of making biodiversity legible and fungible in diverse decision-making arenas. In contrast, critical analyses of a reliance on the language and practices of economics within governance points to a broader economization of conservation that ultimately elides nature protection. As a highly mobile and performative construct, transnational conservation networks have intensively constructed and deployed natural capital along with related valuation practices to produce novel governance techniques and devices predicated upon an economistic logic. A key question that emerges in relation to economistic environmental governance centers upon how these networks construct understandings of value and practices of valuation. In this paper, I build upon critical studies of valuation to explore this line of inquiry ethnographically. How is value co-produced in practice? What different registers of value emerge? How is valuation organized and enacted? To what extent are co-productions of value and practices of valuation performative? To explore these questions, I rely upon an analysis of discourse and practice using qualitative data collected at international environmental events over a five-year period (2012-2017) as well as related online information, documents, and preliminary interviews. In particular, I examine the production of the Natural Capital Declaration and the Natural Capital Protocol as two prominent attempts to imagine and operationalize natural capital as a means of training ecological complexities to economistic rationalities.

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