Performing Nature’s Valuation: The art of natural capital accounting
Keywords:accounting, dramaturgy, environmental governance, performance, spectacle
Accounting for nature as capital is touted as a promising way of aligning environmental conservation with global capitalism by valuing nature like economic assets. Both its proponents and detractors speculate on what its promises might achieve if they were fully realized, i.e., if nature were actually accounted for, capitalized or commodified. There is, however, an enduring disjunction between vision and execution in this field: the promises simply do not materialize. Economizing nature proves to be extremely complex, raising not only technical hurdles but also intractable conceptual and ontological issues. We suggest taking a critical realist approach to natural capital accounting, acknowledging the inherent resistance of nature to being treated as capital. We consider the arenas dedicated to natural capital accounting as the sites of singular dramaturgical performances, whose effects extend beyond the integration of nature into economic decision making. Drawing on documents, interviews and observations at events dedicated to natural capital accounting, we highlight their theatrical character and reveal the effects they produce. This article aims to contribute to the investigation of environmental governance arenas by emphasizing their significance as venues for symbolic performance and achievement, extending beyond the traditional emphasis on regulatory and hoped-for environmental transformations.
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Copyright (c) 2023 Sylvain Maechler, Valérie Boisvert
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