[Publication] Conservation, finance, bureaucrats: managing time and space in the production of environmental intangibles. Journal of Cultural Economy,2020
Stéphanie Barral a publié au Journal of Cultural Economy,2020 p. 1-.15 l’article de recherche « Conservation, finance, bureaucrats: managing time and space in the production of environmental intangibles »
In the USA, endangered species are federally protected under the Endangered Species Act. Yet they can be harmed under the condition that impacts on their habitats are mitigated. This is known as the no-net loss principle. To do so, public regulators acknowledge conservation banks and endangered species credit production as the most robust policy instruments, as they allow for ecological restoration ahead of impacts. The aim of this paper is to show how endangered species credits, as ‘environmental intangibles,’ are designed and produced so as to meet two diverging objectives, that is, ensuring permanent conservation and attracting private investors. Permanent conservation is ensured through financial insurances, which tie environmental intangibles to a very tangible asset, land. Therefore, environmental credit-making is not only a matter of scientific measurement; as commodities crafted out of government regulation, environmental intangibles also need to be legally stabilized, including through the use of property and financial tools. This securement entails important production costs that limit investors’ profits. Environmental field-level bureaucrats play a central role in understanding this tension, as they organize trade-offs between finance and conservation temporality so as to ensure the production of environmental intangibles permanently linked to land and ecosystems.