For Siddarth Shrikanth, biodiversity loss is the basis of “another planetary crisis.” Climate change has captured the attention of activists, academics, policy experts and financiers, while nature has been relatively ignored.
There is some truth to this statement as the climate industry booms, but Shrikant’s naive claim that the pace of decarbonization is “accelerating” suggests an unreasonable optimism running through natural case.
Although he acknowledges the debate over its intrinsic value, Shrikanth’s main contribution is to provide a “business case” for nature. He proposed the concept of natural capital: “The natural world is priceless – but that doesn’t mean it has no value.”
Part of this value comes from nature’s “ecosystem services”: provision (timber, fish, etc.), regulation (keeping the planet habitable), culture (making it worth living), support (biology, physics, chemistry).
Confusingly, Shrikanth does put a price on nature by proposing a series of market-based solutions. His goals are “radical, hopeful and pragmatic,” but this troubling combination of buzzwords provides limited cover for his inability to confront the glaring contradictions inherent in the case.
Each chapter investigates existing initiatives in different policy areas in a journalistic style and then draws to incredibly hopeful conclusions.
While discussing ecotourism, we travel back and forth to Fiji, Costa Rica, and Brazil to learn how responsible tourism can fund conservation. However, little consideration is given to why some countries rely on tourism, and when Shrikanth claims that locals should lead and share in good jobs and benefits, there is no consideration of how this can be achieved against the parasitic logic of a profit-seeking market.
This strategy of diverting capital (whether from Western businesses or consumer spending) towards natural solutions through market mechanisms has been promoted.
Both rewilding (“nature conservation and restoration”) and regenerative agriculture (“nature-friendly food production”) are vaguely and uncritically defined.
While their realization clearly depends on the occasional generosity of multinational corporations – Danone reportedly offered farmers £25bn in long-term contracts to support the transition – Shrikanth reaches the romantic conclusion that a new food system Already within reach.
This optimism extends to new technologies, with positive examples as products of an ever-advancing innovation process that benefits the environment.
But what are the political and economic drivers behind technological development? Are the technologies still being produced designed to worsen the natural crisis rather than solve it?
natural case It ends with an appeal to indigeneity, as is currently fashionable, in which the contradictions of Shrikant’s argument are most acute.
The market solutions he advocates are diametrically opposed to the indigenous knowledge and land management cultures he refers to.
Shrikant likely feels this way deep down, but his lack of conviction puts his pro-market zeal under scrutiny. The cases investigated are not placed within the wider political economy context, nor do they consider the role of marketization in driving the crisis he hopes to resolve.
There was no discussion of the scalability or political feasibility of the various measures. Instead, they are clumsily spliced together, forming an incoherent basis for a predetermined approach that ostensibly appeals to pragmatism.
Not surprisingly, Shrikant lacked – and actively avoided – a political program to match his purportedly natural business case, as he offered limited suggestions on how to achieve his market optimism.
How exactly can markets be freed from the short-term profit motive that has hitherto defined capitalism? What role do states or social movements play in driving this world-historic shift in the relationship between capital and nature?
These political issues were beyond Shrikanth’s competence, and his contribution was even more disappointing.
Chris Saltmarsh is co-founder of Labour’s Green New Deal and author of Green New Deal. Burnt: Fight for climate justice.