NEW ARTICLE: Biodiversity offsetting and conservation: reframing nature to save it

Author(s): Evan­gelia Apos­tolopoulou and William M. Adams

Title: Bio­di­ver­sity off­set­ting and con­ser­va­tion: refram­ing nature to save it

Year: 2015

In: Oryx, Pub­lished online: 06 Octo­ber 2015

Pages: 9 pages

Pub­li­ca­tion type: jour­nal article

Lan­guage: English



Bio­di­ver­sity off­set­ting involves the bal­anc­ing of bio­di­ver­sity loss in one place (and at one time) by an equiv­a­lent bio­di­ver­sity gain else­where (an out­come referred to as No Net Loss). The con­ser­va­tion sci­ence lit­er­a­ture has chiefly addressed the extent to which bio­di­ver­sity off­sets can serve as a con­ser­va­tion tool, focus­ing on the tech­ni­cal chal­lenges of its imple­men­ta­tion. How­ever, off­set­ting has more pro­found impli­ca­tions than this tech­ni­cal approach sug­gests. In this paper we intro­duce the con­cept of pol­icy frames, and use it to iden­tify four ways in which non-human nature and its con­ser­va­tion are reframed by off­set­ting. Firstly, off­set­ting reframes nature in terms of iso­lated bio­di­ver­sity units that can be sim­ply defined, mea­sured and exchanged across time and space to achieve equiv­a­lence between eco­log­i­cal losses and gains. Sec­ondly, it reframes bio­di­ver­sity as lack­ing loca­tional speci­ficity, ignor­ing broader dimen­sions of place and deep­en­ing a nature–culture and nature–society divide. Thirdly, it reframes con­ser­va­tion as an exchange of cred­its imply­ing that the value of non-human nature can be set by price. Fourthly, it ties con­ser­va­tion to land devel­op­ment and eco­nomic growth, fore­shad­ow­ing and bypass­ing an oppo­si­tional posi­tion. We con­clude that by pre­sent­ing off­set­ting as a tech­ni­cal issue, the prob­lem of bio­di­ver­sity loss due to devel­op­ment is depoliti­cized. As a result the pos­si­bil­ity of oppos­ing and chal­leng­ing envi­ron­men­tal destruc­tion is fore­closed, and a dystopian future of con­tin­ued bio­di­ver­sity loss is pre­sented as the only alternative.

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