Friday, December 8, 10:00AM – 5:30PM
Louis A. Simpson Building, Room A71
20 Washington Road, Princeton University


Over the last several decades, there has been an outpouring of research in the social sciences and humanities on the social production of nature that has advanced understandings of human and non-human nature in ways that are decidedly non-binary and non-deterministic. Most importantly, these studies have shown that what has historically been put on the side of ‘nature’ and on the side of ‘society’ has been of deep consequence for how we conceive of our own existence and relationship with the material world and have deeply shaped ideas around justice (or lack thereof) in modern societies.

More recent scholarship on the neoliberalization of nature extends this analysis to understand the uneven ways non-human nature (i.e., the climate, forests, seagrass, shellfish etc.) are increasingly being enrolled, privatized, and commodified through land grabs, resource extraction, and environmental market-based instruments such as green bonds and other emissions trading schemes. These studies demonstrate that the refiguring of material nature in terms of ‘services’, ‘economies’, ‘infrastructure’, and ‘natural capital’ can have profound and contradictory consequences for fragile ecosystems and marginalized communities that often rely on their local environments to sustain their livelihoods and way of life without necessarily meeting stated environmental and sustainability goals.

This one-day symposium will build on the concept of neoliberal natures to explore the ecological and justice implications of resource extraction, including new forms of global conservation efforts that are premised on the commodification and financialization of material nature as a planetary-scale solution to a range of global environmental crises. The symposium brings together scholars, environmental activists, and thought leaders from across the United States, Canada, Latin America, and the Caribbean, working at the intersections of research, policy, and advocacy to explore a range of questions related to the challenges their rapid global environmental change pose for conservation, sustainable development, and ecosystem health in the contemporary era: What constitutes the current conjuncture in global environmental governance, and in what ways and to what ends is biological life—human and non-human—made part of neoliberal environmental projects? How is the push towards achieving environmental sustainability goals on one hand, and growing efforts to financialize and commodify non-human nature through market-based interventions, reshaping human-environment relations? What are the ecological and political implications of these efforts? How do these market-based environmental schemes unfold across different political, economic, and technological contexts to shape social and environmental sustainability? And how do these schemes intersect with ideas around abolition, decolonization, degrowth, and post-extractivism?

The symposium is intended to serve as a critical space to start moving the debate beyond just critique, and to begin envisioning alternative futures built around ideas of just transitions, insurgent knowledge and a post-extractivist world. By situating environmental issues and challenges within the context of a highly uneven and rapidly changing world, the symposium will explore how dynamic political, economic, and technological contexts can amplify social and environmental inequalities yet also present opportunities for promoting genuine transformative change.



Registration is full. Please contact environment@princeton.edu