Once upon a time in the wild west Sometimes life brings experiences that give pause for thought. In recent years I have returned to west Namibia to work with elders of families I’ve known for over almost 30 years – a legacy of a childhood split between Britain and southern Africa. We have been documenting … Continue reading I’m Sian, and I’m a fossil fuel addict: on paradox, disavowal and (im)possibility in changing climate change
On 30th April 2020, an Interim Report on The Economics of Biodiversity was published by the UK government. Commissioned by UK Treasury and led by economist Professor Sir Partha Dasgupta, the report is shorthanded as 'The Dasgupta Review', following the tradition established by the 2014 'Stern Review' on The Economics of Climate Change authored by … Continue reading The Dasgupta Interim Review on the Economics of Biodiversity – Feedback
… capitalism cannot be fully attained or practiced [sic] until... we have an accurate balance sheet [that places] natural capital on the balance sheets of companies, countries, … [and] the world. A global consolidation of ecological accounting, and particularly natural capital accounting, aims to make nature values visible both as stocks of ‘natural capital’ and … Continue reading The balance sheet of nature? On making monetary value of UK ‘natural capital’
In a famous scene in George Orwell’s 1984, Inner Party member O’Brien tests protagonist Winston Smith’s allegiance to Party truth by demanding that Winston sees five fingers, instead of the four he is holding up. Winston’s refusal to see something other than what his eyes tell him is the cue for intense physical pain, courtesy … Continue reading How many fingers am I holding up?
By Mike Hannis and Sian Sullivan, for the Future Pasts research project. At the extreme southern tip of Africa in 1652, the world’s first trans-national corporation began establishing a new port. The powerful Dutch East India Company (Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, or VOC) initially just wanted a resupply point for ships rounding the Cape on … Continue reading Extraction old and new: mining the desert in southwestern Africa
First there was Nature. Sometimes an Edenic garden, whose fruitfulness we live with in peace and reciprocity; sometimes a vast wilderness to be feared, tamed or worshiped. But always a lively mesh of entities, whose magnificent diversity is now threatened by a single biological species – Homo sapiens. Then came Nature 2.0. A material world … Continue reading Nature 3.0 – Will blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies save the planet?
The push and pull of climate ‘agreements’ For the 21st time, preparations are underway for a United Nations Conference of Parties (COP) on Climate Change (or ‘summit’), intended to produce A Universal Climate Agreement (or ‘deal’) for the management and prevention of global anthropogenic climate change. As with similar meetings since at least the mid-1990s, … Continue reading On climate change ontologies and the spirit(s) of oil
A film installation by film-maker Stephen Hurrel and social ecologist Ruth Brennan One evening in May 2015 I started to read Pirate Utopias: Moorish Corsairs and European Renegadoes by Peter Lamborn Wilson, a writer perhaps better known for their provocative ruminations on ‘ontological anarchy’ and Temporary Autonomous Zones (under the pseudonym Hakim Bey). Pirate Utopias … Continue reading Reflections on Clyde Reflections
This post responds to an invitation to add my views to a comments thread regarding the 'Green Paper' for A Nature and Well-being Act (hereafter 'Green Paper'), published in 2014 by the The Wildlife Trusts and the RSPB. The comments thread makes reference to work of mine by the anonymous 'todaysmysteryguest’, writing on Jan 8th … Continue reading On ‘natural capital’ and ‘ecosystem services’ in the proposed Nature and Well-being Act (The Wildlife Trusts and RSPB)
Notes from an invited talk given as part of a Public Dialogue on the UK's National Ecosystem Assessment, held at the Royal Society London in 2014. There are a range of different ways of representing the relatively new term and concept of ‘ecosystem services’. Here's one: As you can see, in this image ‘cultural … Continue reading ‘Ecosystem services’ and the role of the market: a concerned view
From disavowal to plutonomy, via ‘natural capital’? In Edinburgh over the next two days the inaugural World Forum on Natural Capital claims that 'a revolution is taking place in how businesses and governments account for natural capital', and that 'there has never been a better time for senior decision makers to exercise leadership for the … Continue reading At the Edinburgh Forums on Natural Capital and Natural Commons, 2013
Does putting a price tag on our natural world change our behaviour, or is it just another step into a model that brings few benefits for people - let alone our planet? After reading my blog post 'The natural capital myth', the Green Economy Coalition invited me to write a piece on the ‘debates around … Continue reading Should nature have to prove its value?
The Making of ‘Natural Capital’ Increasingly, it seems, nature is actually money. The contemporary moment of global crisis in both ecological and economic spheres is also the moment wherein ‘Nature’ is being refashioned as ‘Natural Capital’. Key interlocking elements thus are joining the previously rather separate domains of economics, business and finance, with ecology, environmentalism and conservation. … Continue reading The natural capital myth
In the summer of 2013, and following my authoring of Biodiversity Conservation, Financialisation and Equity: Some Currents and Concerns for the Third World Network (TWN), I was nominated by TWN to speak at the 7th Trondheim Conference on Biodiversity (27-31 May 2013) on what was termed a ‘high-level’ Plenary Panel on ‘Trade-offs in National Policies’. … Continue reading Plenary Panel with Pavan Sukhdev, at the 2013 Trondheim Conference on Biodiversity
It’s official. We live in a magical universe. I have always known this, somewhere. In my heart, in my belly, in the places where the onslaught of modernity’s cynicism has not been able to reach. But now it is confirmed. Because last night I was privileged to watch - awed and humbled - the … Continue reading The Aurora affect
The conference Development for a Finite Planet: Grassroots Perspectives and Responses to Climate Change, Resource Extraction and Economic Development organised in Oslo by the Norwegian Association for Development Research collected together a diverse array of papers on local engagements with, and contestations of, environmental issues. Contexts as far apart as South Africa’s townships and the … Continue reading Chess or Go? Comments on a Conference Panel
1. On elephants and economics In 1993, Australian ecologist Graeme Caughley published a paper on elephant conservation and market reasoning in Conservation Biology. Responding to proposals that clear ownership designations and the ability to sell harvested ivory on a free market would incentivise the conservation of African elephants, he showed that this approach might … Continue reading Biodiversity conservation, financialisation and equity: some currents and concerns
'Mike Hannis and Sian Sullivan explore the strange world of biodiversity offsets and habitat banking', for The Land Magazine. Land use planning is a key arena for the spectacles of localism and marketisation being staged by our self-proclaimed greenest government ever. The new “presumption in favour of sustainable development” aims to encourage housebuilding and other … Continue reading Offsetting nature
Green Green is a 2009 film depicting deforestation of Indonesian tropical forest to make way for industrial palm oil plantations, seen through the experience of a particular injured and displaced orangutan called ‘Green’. It is made by French independent film-maker Patrick Rouxel. At the biennial WildScreen film festival of 2010, the largest global gathering of … Continue reading Green: Going Beyond ‘the Money Shot’
By 2030, carbon will be the largest commodity market in the world: $1.6-2.4 trillion, about the same as the current oil market. The first UK project allowing builders to buy ‘credits’ in conservation schemes, to offset the damage they are doing elsewhere, has been launched... experts believe the industry could become worth billions of pounds … Continue reading A technological recipe for making nature the friend of capital
In this more theoretical commentary I engage with the article ‘Deconstructing Militant Manhood’ written by Lara Coleman & Serena Bassi and published by the International Journal of Feminist Politics in 2011. I intend a further problematisation of what they identify as the exclusionary orderings of powerful gendered and heteronormative scripts within left-political organisations that otherwise … Continue reading Supposing truth is a woman? – a commentary
On 8 July, an opinion piece was published in the journal Nature under the title ‘The Business of Biodiversity‘. In it, Ricardo Bayon of EKO Asset Management Partners, and Michael Jenkins, Director of Forest Trends, argue that: ‘Imposing a price on natural resources and ecosystem services is by far the most effective way of forcing … Continue reading The business of bio(cultural) diversity?
In the James Bond film Quantum of Solace, the villainous business tycoon Domenic Greene, makes a moving (and familiar) speech to potential company sponsors at a spectacularly glamorous, environmental fund-raising gala in Bolivia. He states: We are in a spiral of environmental decline. Since 1945 17% of the planet's vegetated surface has been irreversibly degraded. … Continue reading The environmentality of ‘Earth Incorporated’
“People differ not only in their culture but also in their nature, or rather, in the way they construct relations between humans and non-humans.” Loss We hear a lot these days about loss. In April 2009, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimated that banks, insurance instruments and pension funds have ‘lost’ some US $4.1 trillion … Continue reading Green capitalism, and the cultural poverty of constructing nature as service provider
Notes on the poverty of constructing nature as service-provider Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. (UN Declaration of Human Rights, article 19) This post consists of … Continue reading For the G20 Alternative Summit, London 2009
What are "Ecosystem Services"? At first hearing, they sound like a firm of consultants who help you repair your ailing ecosystem. In fact it's the other way round - the service is provided by people with ecosystems to people who no longer have one, and who need one. For example if your forest, or your … Continue reading An ecosystem at your service?
There is an ancient Greek myth that seems to be a potent parable for our times. Demeter, goddess of grain, fertility and the rhythm of the seasons, appears as a mortal priestess to the imperious King Erysichthon, suggesting he refrain from cutting the trees of a sacred grove planted in celebration of all that she … Continue reading On bioculturalism, shamanism and unlearning the creed of growth