Can Financialization Save Nature? The Case of Endangered Species
Posted: 31 May 2016 Last revised: 10 Apr 2019
Date Written: April 8, 2019
The financialization of nature is underway. Yet the processes through which financialization transforms spaces previously outside markets remains relatively unknown. We address this gap by examining the financialization work conducted by conservationists while attempting to protect the ecosystems under their care. To do so, we examine the development of a calculative device used to assess the ability of conservationists to save endangered species. We demonstrate that this device—the Index—gradually transformed animals into investments from which financial returns were expected. The article is based on an in-depth study of the conservation organization that created the Index, 55 interviews with conservationists and conservation finance specialists, conservation fieldwork, and secondary evidence. Our findings show that the financialization work of conservation unfolded through uncommon carriers (i.e., the conservationists themselves), and did not explicitly involve financial metrics. Instead, conservationists employed “societal visuals,” using society and science as a detour towards the financial valuation of species. Despite their efforts, the financialization of conservation remains incomplete, since no market actually exists for the protection of endangered species. We discuss the implications of these findings for the literatures on financialization and conservation, and the role of calculative devices therein.
Keywords: Biodiversity, Conservation Performance, Extinction Accounting, Financialization, Visuals
JEL Classification: M41, M14
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation