Ecosystem services (ES) has established itself as the predominant paradigm for framing environmental research and policy-making. Its rapid popularisation is raising concerns about the possibility that it might lead to nature commodification. These concerns have been associated with a broader agenda for the neoliberalization of conservation, but research on this area remains mostly theoretical. This paper advances the debate with an empirical study on the views of environmental professionals. The views of those who shape interpretation, uptake and implementation environmental practice are of critical importance since they give the real mark on whether any fundamental change in the current direction of environmental governance is to be expected. Using Mexico as an exemplar case of a country in which ES have clearly entered the environmental discourse provides a forewarning of what might happen more broadly. Results indicate that, while acknowledging risks of commodification, environmental professionals consider a greater risk ‘missing out’ on opportunities to internalize ES monetary values in an economic growth-oriented context. They seem to see negative side-effects as ‘necessary evils’ to achieve conservation targets. Any substantial change in environmental governance is more likely to occur due to the disenchantment produced by the lack of impact of ES-based approaches in practice than of fears of commodification.
- Market-based environmentalism
- Payments for ecosystem services