Between Mumford and Marx: Anatomising Imperial San Francisco
The practice of restoration ecology (the creation and restoration of ecosystems) has important implications for theorizing nature in the traditions of O'Connor's 'capitalized nature,' Haraway's hybrid socionatures, and other recent work in poststructural approaches to political ecology. The prominent US environmental discourse of 'no net loss of wetlands' has spurred the rapid expansion of restoration practices, which promise to open a new frontier in the commodification and capitalization of nature. Through wetland mitigation and banking, restoration science is representing entire ecosystems as abstract, mobile, and fungible entities; however, a simple reading of a restored landscape as fully capitalized is unsatisfactory. Close attention to the wetland commodification process reveals two important points: 1) the commodification and capitalization of nature is never automatic; rather, the crucial steps of abstraction and valuation are composed of negotiations between and within differentiated segments of the state and civil society, in which there are many spaces for resistance; and 2) the materiality of restoration sites provided important challenges to the commodification process, which are not contemplated within critical approaches to nature as currently constituted. The transformation of restoration sites into sites of commodity provision is incomplete at best. A major challenge for poststructural political ecology will be to specify ecological phenomena and their important role in the social construction of material environments, without falling into an ontological commitment to the primacy of ecological data.