Selling Nature to Save Nature and Ourselves?

Humanity faces unprecedented challenge of climate change combined with food, water and energy shortages

“Markets are preconditioned on inequality and will only make matters worse”

By Stephen Leahy

THE HAGUE, Jul 5, 2011 (IPS)

Avoiding the coming catastrophic nexus of climate change, food, water and energy shortages, along with worsening poverty, requires a global technological overhaul involving investments of 1.9 trillion dollars each year for the next 40 years, said experts from the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN-DESA) in Geneva Tuesday.

“The need for a technological revolution is both a development and existential imperative for civilisation,” said Rob Vos, lead author of a new report, “The Great Green Technological Transformation”.

Absent in the U.N. report is a call for the other necessary transformation: what to do with the market-driven economic system that has put humanity on this catastrophic collision course? Attempts to “green” capitalism are failing and will fail, according to many of the more than 200 social science researchers at a groundbreaking international conference in The Hague titled NATURE INC? QUESTIONING THE MARKET PANACEA IN ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY AND CONSERVATION Jun. 30 to Jul. 2.

“We must start tackling and questioning some core capitalist dictums, such as consumerism, hyper-competition, the notion that ‘private’ is always better, and especially economic growth,” says Bram Büscher, the conference co-organiser and researcher at the Institute of Social Studies (ISS) at Erasmus University in The Hague, Netherlands.

Equally important is to stop looking at nature as a collection of economic objects and services that “must only benefit some specific idea of human economic progress”, Büscher told IPS.

Governments, the World Bank, the United Nations and development agencies, international conservation organisations and others have all come to see markets as the only way to mobilise enough money to end deforestation, increase the use of alternative energy, boost food production, alleviate poverty, reduce pollution and solve a host of other serious and longstanding problems.

Started as a small gathering of academics, Nature Inc? became a major event as hundreds of experts from around the world wished to participate. Büscher believes the main reason for this is that many are actively doing research on environmental and conservation issues and are increasingly running into new market schemes like carbon credit trading, payments for ecosystem services, biodiversity derivatives and new conservation finance mechanisms, and so on.

“Payments for ecosystem services are the newest tropical ‘miracle’ crop,” said Kathleen McAfee of San Francisco State University.

The market is putting new values on tropical forests as carbon sinks, reservoirs of biodiversity or ecotourism destinations, McAfee said during the conference. Continue reading

Governments Responsible for Species Decline – New Panel Learns from IPCC Experience

By Stephen Leahy*

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Mar 6, 2011 (Tierramérica)

After five years of preparation the international community is expected to launch the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services this year. For some of its proponents, even the decisions of the World Trade Organisation should be subject to its analysis.

IPBES would be analogous to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), but focused on biological diversity.

The idea behind this effort is that decisions by all levels of government are largely responsible for the decline in species and ecosystems that support life on the Earth.

To put an end to species decline, governments need an independent, authoritative scientific body that can assess the impacts of proposed policies and decisions that biodiversity experts have long recommended.

“People generally have yet to appreciate the importance of biodiversity and ecosystem services, and how much is at stake in biodiversity loss,” Charles Perrings, professor of environmental economics at Arizona State University in the U.S. southwest, told Tierramérica.

“Biodiversity” is the term used to describe the wide variety of living things that comprise the planet’s biological infrastructure and provide us with health, wealth, food, water, fuel and other vital services.  Continue reading