Payments for ecosystem services as commodity fetishism

Payments for ecosystem services as commodity fetishism

Nicolás Kosoy and Esteve Corbera

Ecological Economics, Volume 69, Issue 6, 1 April 2010, Pages 1228-1236

Kosoy and Corbera argue “that narrowing down the complexity of ecosystems to a single service has serious technical difficulties and ethical implications on the way we relate to and perceive nature. Secondly, the commodification of ecosystem services denies the multiplicity of values which can be attributed to these services, since it requires that a single exchange-value is adopted for trading. Finally, we suggest that the process of production, exchange and consumption of ecosystem services is characterised by power asymmetries which may contribute to reproducing rather than addressing existing inequalities in the access to natural resources and services.” (1228)

This perspective contrasts sharply with the naïve promotion of payment for ecosystems services, as in Milder et al.’s suggested reading “Trends and Future Potential of Payment for Ecosystem Services to Alleviate Rural Poverty in Developing Countries.”

It is also a crucial follow up to Nadasdy’s chapter – which we did not get to discuss enough last week.

For example, some are suggesting Goldman et al.’s essay “Field evidence that ecosystem service projects support biodiversity and diversity options,” and arguing that “we should put ecosystem services into our research proposals!” If that is the case, then it becomes absolutely crucial for ecologists to learn to read between the lines of naïve articles like Milder et al.’s and Goldman et al.’s. Otherwise, the myopia of “neutral” and “objective science” will continue to lubricate socio-ecological exploitation in the guise of “restoration.”

Gustavo Oliveira

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