“There’s no such thing as a unit of biodiversity”: Contesting value and biodiversity offsetting in England

Guy Crawford

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In an era defined by neo-liberalism, environmental policy that results in the commodification of aspects of the nonhuman world has become increasingly commonplace. This raises important questions regarding how value is attributed to such entities. In recent years, policies that aim to integrate environmental conservation activities into the flow of capital have become more established. In England, the UK government is currently piloting a policy of biodiversity offsetting at six sites. Biodiversity offsetting has been framed as a means of reconciling development and conservation goals. It is argued that ecologically damaging development can be effectively mitigated by establishing a financial incentive for conservation activities elsewhere. Additional conservation activities generate credits that can be bought by developers, resulting in ‘no net loss’ of biodiversity. With an approach grounded in cultural political economy, this chapter explores competing discourses surrounding the policy and examines varying positions held by stakeholders. Each discourse articulates a particular understanding of socioecological relations that underpin perspectives on how the value of nature should be conceptualised. The chapter highlights how the emergence of new forms of environmental policy involves a semiotic and political struggle between stakeholders to assert a particular vision and conceptualisation of socioecological relations.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLocating Value
Subtitle of host publicationTheory, Application and Critique
EditorsSamantha Saville, Gareth Hoskins
PublisherRoutledge, London
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-315-72368
ISBN (Print)978-1-138-85223-5
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019

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