Ecosystem Services and the Privatization of Ecological Knowledge

In my own research I keep running across privitized ecological knowledge. It took me off guard at first. I was asking an environmental manager what his management practices are, and he responded that he could not tell me, that the management practices I asked about were proprietary information. States and multi-state catchments within the Mississippi Basin are all anticipating a future EPA ruling that will make reactive nitrogen reduction in receiving waters mandatory, therefore, the ability to take the most nitrogen of out of water per unit time determines the price one receives for a nutrient reduction credit. Got it, management matters. Fair enough.

But is it? And maybe this doesn't matter for anyone else, but it really bothers me that one of the last bastions of public knowledge is being privatized. The history of capilalism has taught us that the knowledge of the commodity and its mobilization is as much part of the commodity as the physical object. This being the case, with the commodification of ecosystem services, so goes the privatization of many aspects of ecological knowledge. This is privitization of knowledge of the very processes that make up our life support system. Many of you will get jobs after you graduate with environmental restoration or consulting firms that specialize in restoration for profit and verification of ecological function for ecosystem service markets. As possible future practising ecologists, I am curious what you think. Is the privitization of ecological knowledge just an inevitable price we have to pay for the market saving the environment? Or will privitization encourage ecological innovation?

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