Relates lively, firsthand accounts of global processes at work drawn from multi-site research in Nairobi, Kenya; London, England; and Nagoya, Japan Assesses the scientific, technical, geopolitical, economic, and ethical challenges found in attempts to 'enterprise nature' Investigates the implications of this 'will to enterprise' for environmental politics and policy
Jessica Dempsey is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Geography at the University of British Columbia, Canada.
The first spark of this book began in May 2006, in the outskirts of Curitiba, Brazil. I was attending a negotiation of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Most attention centered whether or not the Parties, government signatories to the agreement, would reaffirm or overturn a moratorium on the field-testing of what is known colloquially as terminator technology (seeds engineered to produce sterile seeds). Hundreds of small farmers and landless people gathered outside the conference center every day reminding the suited delegates that they had responsibilities beyond the patent holders of the technology.
Outside this crucial debate, other agendas galloped ahead. The first of many events on concepts like "biodiversity offsets" took place, and bureaucrats were just beginning to speak in the language of ecosystem services. Compared to other CBD negotiations, where debates oriented around the definition of "primary forests," it seemed as though the floor underneath international conservation was shifting. Global biodiversity policy was going (more) economic, and perhaps market based! This research was conceived following that negotiation, oriented around a simple question: how did this happen? How did economic and market-based approaches become so dominant, even commonsense, in global biodiversity conservation?
My role in these biodiversity circuits has never been one of passive observer, but of active participant, largely organized by the ongoing work of the Convention on Biological Diversity Alliance (CBD Alliance), a network of civil society groups that follows and intervenes in global biodiversity policies. For over a decade, working with all kinds of people, from all kinds of organizations and social movements - from WWF to Via Campesina - I researched and prepared briefing papers, coordinated joint policy statements, and fundraised endlessly to bring Southern NGOs, Indigenous communities, and social movement representatives to negotiations. Attending over a dozen negotiations, we worked to influence the shape of international biodiversity law and policy. This might sound as if I inhabited a glamorous world of international diplomats and the jet-set crowd, but I can say that it mostly involved sitting with headsets on for long periods of time, carefully following boring legalese as it shifted and shaped, crafting alternative text to circulate to friendly government delegates, and working all hours for one or two weeks.
These experiences, but especially the people I worked closely with, contributed to the particular lens through which I see "enterprising nature," a phrase that I use to describe efforts to transform diverse natures into economically competitive entities. More than anything, I learned how to inhabit the uncomfortable, impure spaces of liberal environmentalism.
Let me explain. I went to my first CBD negotiation in Den Haag in 2002 armed with a straightforward narrative about the limits of the global, and especially the limits of the multilateral, a lens honed over the course of my undergraduate education and local political activities: the bad experts and elites of the globe continue to wreak havoc on the local, the Indigenous, the peasant, even when they are saving nature. Yet upon arrival I met a group of international activists, such as Ricardo Carrere, Pat Mooney, Ashish Kothari, Chee Yoke Ling, Patrick Mulvany, and Simone Lovera, who were at once deeply skeptical of the premises of the CBD and the "sustainable development compromise," but who also used the negotiations as a site to draw attention to the persistent blind spots in international environmental law and policy: to how new financial mechanisms fail to address deep power imbalances and socioecological injustices, to the way that very small steps forward at the CBD are undermined by neoliberal trade rules, to the enormous gulfs between haves and have-nots, to the episte