McAfee K, 1999, "Selling nature to save it? Biodiversity and green developmentalism" Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 17(2) 133 – 154
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Selling nature to save it? Biodiversity and green developmentalism
Received 2 September 1997; in revised form 21 July 1998
Abstract. New supranational environmental institutions, including the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the 'green' World Bank, reflect attempts to regulate international flows of 'natural capital' by means of an approach I call 'green developmentalism'. These institutions are sources of eco-development dollars and of a new 'global' discourse, a postneoliberal environmental-economic paradigm. By the logic of this paradigm, nature is constructed as a world currency and ecosystems are recoded as warehouses of genetic resources for biotechnology industries. Nature would earn its own right to survive through international trade in ecosystem services and permits to pollute, access to tourism and research sites, and exports of timber, minerals, and intellectual property rights to traditional crop varieties and shamans' recipes. I contend that green developmentalism, with its promise of market solutions to environmental problems, is blunting the North - South disputes that have embroiled international environmental institutions. But by valuing local nature in relation to international markets -- denominating diversity in dollars, euros, or yen -- green developmentalism abstracts nature from its spatial and social contexts and reinforces the claims of global elites to the greatest share of the earth's biomass and all it contains. Meanwhile, the CBD has become a gathering ground for transnational coalitions of indigenous, peasant, and NGO opponents of 'biopiracy' and the patenting of living things, and advocates of international environmental justice. They have begun to put forward counterdiscourses and alternative practices to those of green developmentalism.
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