Nature is not for sale! 2nd Forum on the Natural Commons on 2 June 2014 at the Regent’s Park Hub, London

 Counter event to the No Net Loss Con­fer­ence: 2nd Forum on the Nat­ural Com­mons on 2 June 2014 in London

Crit­ics of Bio­di­ver­sity Off­sets have a grow­ing lobby, espe­cially in the UK, where the gov­ern­ment seems to rush want­ing to push through the con­cept of Bio­di­ver­sity Off­sets, no mat­ter at what expense and qual­ity. As a result a num­ber of bio­di­ver­sity off­set pilots that have been tri­aled are fac­ing severe crit­i­cism and resis­tance, mostly by the local pop­u­la­tion and NGOs such as FERN. As a result, a strong oppo­si­tion against Bio­di­ver­sity Off­sets has been formed.

So, not sur­pris­ingly, oppo­nents against Bio­di­ver­sity Off­sets have also seen the No Net Loss Con­fer­ence in the Lon­don Zoo (see my pre­vi­ous post “BBOP holds first No Net Loss Con­fer­ence on Bio­di­ver­sity Off­sets, June, 3 – 4, 2014, Lon­don”: crit­i­cally and have organ­ised a counter event on the eve of the con­fer­ence:  Nature is not for sale! 2nd Forum on the Nat­ural Com­mons on 2 June 2014 at the Regent’s Park Hub, London.

Unfor­tu­nately I wasn’t able to attend this event, so I can only cite the infor­ma­tion made avail­able on the internet.

Invi­ta­tion to the 2nd Forum on the Nat­ural Commons

“The UK gov­ern­ment appears hell-bent on push­ing through bio­di­ver­sity off­set­ting – which will allow wildlife and habi­tats to be destroyed across the coun­try, so long as it is ‘replaced’ elsewhere.

The pol­icy is inher­ently flawed: bio­di­ver­sity off­set­ting ignores the dif­fi­cul­ties in recre­at­ing ecosys­tems, it over­looks the unique­ness of dif­fer­ent habi­tats, and it dis­re­gards the impor­tance of nature for local com­mu­ni­ties. Once a harm­ful devel­op­ment project goes ahead, com­mu­ni­ties lose access to it forever.

We believe it’s time to make space for nature and com­mu­ni­ties. At the 2nd Forum on Nat­ural Com­mons, we bring together NGOs, aca­d­e­mics, activists and the gen­eral pub­lic to dis­cuss nature as a com­mon good that ben­e­fits us all. Join us!”

Agenda of the 2nd Forum on the Nat­ural Com­mons

You can find the Agenda of the 2nd Forum on the Nat­ural Com­mons on the web­site of FERN: or see details pasted below:

Panel 1: New direc­tions in con­ser­va­tion: a closer look at ‘value’ and offsetting.

fon2A new con­ser­va­tion par­a­digm is emerg­ing among pol­icy mak­ers; that in order to prop­erly pro­tect nature, it must be given a ‘proper value’. This usu­ally means set­ting up ways to mea­sure ecosys­tems and bio­di­ver­sity in terms of pounds, dol­lars and euros so that nature, indus­try and eco­nomic growth can all appear on the same bal­ance sheet.

This potent nar­ra­tive under­writes much of the polit­i­cal energy that is cur­rently directed at devel­op­ing sys­tems of ‘bio­di­ver­sity off­set­ting’ around the world. Cen­tral to the con­cept is the idea that the ‘value’ of any par­tic­u­lar item of bio­di­ver­sity can be assessed against oth­ers and units of bio­di­ver­sity value can be added up, divided and shifted around like fig­ures in a spread­sheet. This is at the heart of the think­ing behind ‘no net loss’ ini­tia­tives. It is an appeal­ing (but fun­da­men­tally flawed) idea because it divorces the ‘value’ of bio­di­ver­sity from the com­plex eco­log­i­cal, social and geo­graphic rela­tions that allow that bio­di­ver­sity to exist.

Where did this new nar­ra­tive for ‘value’ come from and how is it being engi­neered? Why is it treated as self-evident by pol­icy mak­ers and what does it con­ceal? This panel explores the new direc­tions in global con­ser­va­tion pol­icy, the dif­fi­cult ques­tion of ‘value’ and its emer­gent role in envi­ron­men­tal governance.

Facil­i­ta­tor: Sian Sul­li­van

Con­firmed speak­ers:
o    Jutta Kill, World Rain­for­est Move­ment
o    John O’Neill, Man­ches­ter Uni­ver­sity
o    Mor­gan Robert­son, Uni­ver­sity of Wisconsin-Madison

o    Mike Han­nis, Bath Spa uni­ver­sity and The Land magazine

Panel 2: Bio­di­ver­sity off­set­ting and com­mu­nity rightsdrawing bulldozer

Access to nature is impor­tant for people’s well-being, health, pros­per­ity and hap­pi­ness. Whether shale gas, a new road or a large hous­ing devel­op­ment, new devel­op­ment projects have an undoubtable envi­ron­men­tal and social impact.

Bio­di­ver­sity off­set­ting prop­a­gates the myth that peo­ple and nature are com­pletely sep­a­rate, by promis­ing to neu­tral­ize the envi­ron­men­tal impact of devel­op­ment by pro­tect­ing or improv­ing bio­di­ver­sity else­where. This may lead to an increase in devel­op­ments that infringe on com­mu­nity rights and access to nature. Land set aside for con­ser­va­tion within an off­set­ting scheme could lead to fur­ther land grab­bing, tak­ing land out of the hands of com­mu­ni­ties in order to serve cor­po­rate ‘envi­ron­men­tal’ interests.

Nature is not some­thing we can have else­where: it is not sep­a­rate from peo­ple – this is the myth that off­set­ting prop­a­gates. We need to learn to live sus­tain­ably, mean­ing we need to chal­lenge unneeded devel­op­ment, and make sure that devel­op­ment that does hap­pen is as sus­tain­able as possible.

What are the impacts of bio­di­ver­sity off­set­ting likely to be on the ground, and what will it mean for com­mu­ni­ties strug­gling against devel­op­ment pro­pos­als? Owen Pater­son MP said that off­sets should be an hour’s drive away – but how far is too far? And is this really the point? This panel explores the impli­ca­tions of bio­di­ver­sity off­set­ting on peo­ple, and how com­mu­nity rights are artic­u­lated in the global North and South.

Facil­i­ta­tor: Fred Pearce, Jour­nal­ist

Con­firmed speak­ers:
o    Ian Scoones, co-director STEPS Cen­tre
o    Peter J Howard, Mem­ber of Land­scape Research group
o    Kathryn McWhirter, res­i­dent of Bal­combe and Shale Gas cam­paigner
o    Sylvia Kay, Transna­tional Insti­tute
o    Sarah Wal­ters, wood­land man­ager, Alve­cote Wood

Follow-up on the 2nd Forum on the Nat­ural Commons

DSC07108 (2)

The event was con­sid­ered a suc­cess by the organ­is­ers, includ­ing pre­sen­ta­tions by the fol­low­ing speakers:

You can find some of the pre­sen­ta­tions on the FERN web­site:

Mike Han­nis gave an exam­ple of an off­set­ting project in the UK and the off­set cal­cu­la­tion using Defra’s scor­ing Matrix: Thaxted off­sets,

Peter Howard spoke on cul­tural land­scape and the ‘ordi­nary’ undes­ig­nated land­scape vs. des­ig­nated nat­ural areas: Land­scape and Com­mu­ni­ties,

Sylvia Kay unveiled the EU’s farm­ing poli­cies: Land for the few,

John O’Neill gave an overview on some def­i­n­i­tions and con­cepts related to bio­di­ver­sity off­sets: bio­di­ver­sity bank­ing, ecosys­tem ser­vices and no net loss. He made an anal­ogy to ZsaZsa Gabors secret to eter­nal youth: Mar­kets in Bio­di­ver­sity. Keep­ing your bio­di­ver­sity healthy,

Zsa Zsa:“Ah! Peo­ple mis­un­der­stand me! They think that I am just a crea­ture of leisure, that I do noth­ing use­ful, but they are wrong. I am con­stantly find­ing new ways to do good forpeople.”Interviewer:“Like what?” Zsa Zsa:“I have found a way of keep­ing myhus­band young and healthy, almost for­ever.” Interviewer:“Eternal youth… that is quite adis­cov­ery! How do you do it?” Zsa Zsa:“I get a new one every five years!”

Sarah Wal­ters argued why Bio­di­ver­sity were a flawed con­cept illus­trated by another UK exam­ple: Alve­cote Wood. Bio­di­ver­sity Off­set­ting in rela­tion to Ancient Wood­land,

“Off­set­ting needs to do the following:

  • Be the LAST resort
  • Exclude high value and irre­place­able habitats
  • Led by the local com­mu­nity who say if, what, how and where
  • Based on poten­tial of habitat
  • Based on inde­pen­dent, trained asses­sors who must con­sult com­mu­nity and local experts and take time to study the habitat

It can’t be done on the cheap”

Fotos of the event can be found here:


Nature is not for sale! 2nd Forum on the Natural Commons on 2 June 2014 at the Regent’s Park Hub, London — 1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Love or Leave? The controversy about Biodiversity Offsets - Biodiversity Offsets Blog

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