Valuing nature in developing countries

The focus of my research and that of a number of my doctoral students is sustainable development as it is imagined and practised by a range of actors in Latin America. We analyse the ways in which actors in various countries and sub-regions examine the structural causes and possible solutions to environmental problems and climate change, and ask: What should the basic principles for the sustainable management of the diverse ecosystems found in Latin America be? How does urban planning and infrastructure development look like from a sustainable environment management perspective? Why and how should the livelihoods of rural and indigenous peoples be protected? More specifically, we have researched the links between biological, cultural and social diversity; the role of ecosystem services in enhancing wellbeing; the governance of ecosystem services provision; and the conditions under which environmental and social policy integration fosters coordination, regulation and long-term planning.

This new project builds on past research findings to engage the issue of value and valuation more theoretically. Trade-offs between development and conservation are often calculated on the basis of cost-and-benefit and multi-criteria analyses. We will look at the use of evaluation techniques by different political, economic and social actors involved in the design and implementation of development and conservation policies. Results will contribute to a better understanding of the conceptualisation of value in economic anthropology, ecological economics, and development economics.

Laura Rival
Associate Professor of Anthropology and Development