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The political dimensions of Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES): Cascade or stairway?

Daniel Hausknost, Nelson Grima and Simron Jit Singh

Ecological Economics, 2017, vol. 131, issue C, 109-118

Abstract: This paper aims to advance our understanding of Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) as ‘political projects’ by offering an analytical tool for investigating power relations, political decisions, place specific ideas and social norms in the construction and operation of PES schemes. This proposed analytic tool is based on a revised version of the ‘ecosystem service cascade’, which we propose to transform into an ecosystem service stairway model as a device to analyse political processes in ecosystem service construction and provision. We show that the key to understanding the politics of PES lies in the antagonistic processes between the different steps of the stairway. In particular, we show that the definition and mobilisation of the ecosystem service potential (ESP) is the stage where the most fundamental political decisions are made. Here, the role of intermediaries is particularly significant as they introduce their own conceptions of society-nature relations, which function as ‘epistemic selectivities’ in further defining and mobilising the ESP and in generating the resulting Ecosystem Services (ESS). We illustrate our main conceptual insights and evaluate the usefulness of our political ecosystem stairway model by applying it to two Latin American cases, one in Brazil and the other in Bolivia.

Keywords: Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES); Ecosystem service stairway model; PES politics; Commodification of nature (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017
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