A Spectacular Eco-Tour around the Historic Bloc: Theorising the Convergence of Biodiversity Conservation & Capitalist Expansion

By Jim Igoe, Katja Neves and Dan Brockington:


Once the value of particular ecosystem is revealed, for example an ecosystem’s ability to store carbon, the ecosystem acquires economic value as a service provider or as a non- consumptive resource, as in the case of eco-tourism. The ecosystem thus putatively becomes a source of income for local communities, creating further capitalist-development opportunities (Sullivan 2009).7 Given that within the tenets of capitalist principles the allocation of funds is directly related to associated potential returns on investment, conservationists who seek donor funds are increasingly under pressure to show the economic advantages of their conservation goals. Hence, the notion that the relationships between conservationist action and capitalist reality are necessarily beneficial becomes increasingly taken- for-granted. This idea becomes hegemonic when it is so systematically and extensively promoted that it acquires the appearance of being the only feasible view of how best to pursue and implement conservation goals. Alternative and critical views of this logic are consistently kept at the margins or outright silenced.

The hegemonic nature of these claims, and the ideological context from which they are derived, present major obstacles to demo-cratic and reflexive discussions of our most pressing socio-environmental problems. Capitalism’s destructive-extractive relationships with the environment are unlikely to be challenged unless we are able to understand the fundamental contradictions between capitalism’s need to expand exponentially vis-a`-vis the capacity of ecosystems to withstand and absorb the disturbances and stresses that this exponential growth entails. Indeed, it appears that capitalism is turning the environmental problems it creates into opportunities for further commodification and market expansion (Brockington, Duffy and Igoe 2008; Klein 2007).


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