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2012 Master's Level Graduate Research Conference

Session I - Session II - Session III - Session IV

A Meta Analysis of Payments for Ecosystem Services: A Commoditization Approach

The paper I propose to present is an extensive survey and critique of Payments for Ecosystem Services. I perform a meta-analysis of the extant corpus of PES literature, and review 60 different cases. PES projects are increasingly popular market driven conservation strategies which attempt to "pay" for conservation, predominantly at sites located in the global south. It relies on processes of economic abstraction such as commoditization which entail a flawed valuation of complex ecosystem services. That the concept of "ecosystem services" is a conceit premised on seeing ecosystems as divorced from their socionatural contexts and merely as “factories” producing ecological goods and services, is quite problematic. The neoliberal implementation of such strategies in the global south is further problematic as it raises questions of who benefits from these exchanges. I posit that the people whom these schemes purportedly help are actually exploited – their embedded labor, strategically concealed. Thus, the 'value' of external nature depends not only on market demand and ground rent but also on the class struggle in general, and particularly the environmental struggle. I also posit that PES is broadly representative of a larger conservation paradigm which needs to be reconfigured, since these models reproduce colonial patterns of extraction which not only poorly address conservation, but falsely advocate progress under the guise of “green capitalism”. This serves to delineate flaws in the neoliberal model reliant on the primitive accumulation of capital, and charges us to propose solutions which decouple human progress from the juggernaut of global capitalist growth.

Presenter: Saptarshi Lahiri (SUNY-ESF) -- slahiri@syr.edu
Topic: Business/Sustainability - Panel
Location: 120 Hartwell
Time: 3:55 pm (Session IV)

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