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Publication Details

Ernstson, Henrik & Sörlin, Sverker  (2012) Articulating Values in Urban Nature Ecosystem: Services as Technology of Globalization. Submitted 2012-02-06 to the journal Ecological Economics for a special issue on “Sustainable Urbanization: A Resilient Future” edited by Leoni June Pearson. : 1-24.

The paper demonstrates how ecosystem services can be viewed and studied as a social practice of value articulation. With this follows that when ecosystem services appear as objects of calculated value in decision-making they are ‘tainted’ by the social and cannot be viewed as merely reflecting an objective biophysical reality. Using case studies of place-based struggles in Stockholm and Cape Town, we demonstrate how values are relationally constructed through social practice. The same analysis is applied on ecosystem services. Of special interest is the TEEB Manual that uses a consultancy report on the economic evaluation of Cape Town’s ‘natural assets’ to describe a step-by-step method to catalogue, quantify and price certain aspects of urban nature. The Manual strives to turn the ‘ecosystem services approach’ into a transportable method, capable of objectively measuring the values of urban nature everywhere, in all cities in the world. With its gesture of being universal and objective, it is suggested that the ecosystem services approach is a technology of globalization that dehistoricizes and de-ecologizes debates on urban ecologies, effectively silencing other—and often marginalized—ways of knowing and valuing. The paper inscribes ecosystem services as social practice, as part of historical process, and as inherently political.

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