From the Ground Up: The Origins and Impacts of an Alternative Theorization and Valuation of Payments for Ecosystem Services in Mexico

Authors: Elizabeth Shapiro-Garza*, Duke University
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Economic Geography, Development
Keywords: Payments for ecosystem services, environmental policy, alternative valuation, neoliberalism, discourse analysis, Mexico, Latin America
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Executive Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The national Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) programs of Mexico were originally based on the economistic theory of PES, conceptualizing ecosystems as factories whose various outputs can be quantified, monetized and converted to commodities. This model of PES quickly clashed with an alternative theorization, Compensation for Ecosystem Services (CES), with homegrown roots in the ontological orientation and contextualized experience of a group of public intellectuals with deep engagement in rural Mexico. While built upon the basic premise of PES that healthy ecosystems produce services of value, the CES model re-imagines payments as compensation for the sustainable stewardship and labor of rural communities and, mediated by the state, as a means to counteract the systemic structural inequities between rural and urban and the Global North and South. Based on a series of interviews, longitudinal participant observation and document analysis of the primary proponents of the CES model, this paper explores: 1) the common conceptual underpinnings of its development, but also the variances; 2) its specific influence of on the design and implementation of the national PES programs; and 3) how this influence has been mediated by politics and the shifting relations of power between various actor groups in Mexico.

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