Year of Publication

2013

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Document Type

Master's Thesis

College

Arts and Sciences

Department

Geography

First Advisor

Dr. Morgan Robertson

Abstract

New markets for the conservation of so-called ecosystem services, like the ability of a wetland to mitigate floods, are emerging worldwide. According to environmental economists, these markets require some metric - ecological or otherwise - that names the relevant characteristics of the service to be traded as a commodity. But while this is often assumed to be a simple task of science, I argue that the environmental regulators, eco-entrepreneurs, and conservationists who actually design and implement metrics are not so easily brought into agreement. In “rolling-out” revamped metrics and protocols, regulators and their conservationist allies in one market in Oregon haven’t established the conditions for market success so much as they have constrained entrepreneurs. The solutions to ecosystem destruction 20 years ago - privatization, commodification, and commercialization - have become the obstacles which limit the market’s future viability. The moments when capitalists find themselves saying “let’s sell nature to save it” - or when states say it for them - can spell trouble for capitalists at the same time that they seem like their escape hatch. Still, the short-term and long-term effects of market design may differ; barriers to the market now may prove to be its success later.

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