TEEB Begins Now': A Virtual Moment in the Production of Natural Capital
Kenneth Iain MacDonald
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This article uses theories of virtualism to analyse the role of The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) project in the production of natural capital. Presented at the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, the project seeks to redress the ‘economic invisibility of nature’ by quantifying the value of ecosystems and biodiversity. This endeavour to put an economic value on ecosystems makes nature legible by abstracting it from social and ecological contexts andmaking it subject to, and productive of, new market devices. In reducing the complexity of ecological dynamics to idealized categories TEEB is driven by economic ideas and idealism, and, in claiming to be a quantitative force for morality, is engaged in the production of practices designed to conform the ‘real’ to the virtual. By rendering a ‘valued’ nature legible for key audiences, TEEB has mobilized a critical mass of support including modellers, policy makers and bankers. We argue that TEEB’s rhetoric of crisis and value aligns capitalism with a new kind of ecological modernization in which ‘the market’ and market devices serve as key mechanisms to conform the real and the virtual. Using the case of TEEB, and drawing on data collected at COP10, we illustrate the importance of international meetings as key points where idealized models of biodiversity protection emerge, circulate and are negotiated, and as sites where actors are aligned and articulated with these idealized models in ways that begin further processes of conforming the real with the virtual and the realization of ‘natural capital’.