Conservation biology is an evolving paradigm that has shifted in recent decades from an exclusionary “fences and fines” approach, espousing people-free wild nature, to an anthropocentric economic approach promoting “natural capital” and “ecosystem services”. Market-based instruments are more popular than even in conservation circles (e.g. markets for ecosystem services, cost-benefit analysis, biodiversity offsets). This means the discipline is poorly-equipped to deal with a growing global environmental justice movement, along with the “ecological distribution conflicts” that underpin its emergence (i.e. clashes of values and interests in the use of ecological resources and pollution sinks). Ecological economics has emphasized the socio-political dimensions of biodiversity loss and conservation. However, little is known about the potential synergies and trade-offs between achieving environmental justice for the Earth’s human population and ensuring the survival of our non-human neighbours. In this paper, I make a basic attempt to understand the magnitude of the overlap between global hotspots of environmental (in-)justice and hotspots of biodiversity. To do this, I develop global datasets for (i) global conservation priorities and (ii) ecological distribution conflicts using data from the literature. I estimate the share of national and global conservation priorities that are linked to fate of ecological distribution conflicts, and develop a conceptual model for how these two processes (political conflict, biodiversity loss) are linked. Finally, I hypothesize on the type of economic development and local conservation policies that can address the roots of both issues.
This media entry was a contribution to the special session „Conservation in conflict“ at the 5th International Degrowth Conference in Budapest in 2016.