Australia's Earth Sanctuaries Limited (ESL) is an internationally acclaimed organisation that uses private property as a way to achieve conservation objectives, thereby demonstrating a commitment to using free market principles to create sustainable futures. This private approach to conservation clearly resonates with the agenda of conservative think tanks and is ideologically motivated. The environmental credentials of this organisation obscure this motivation and also the far-reaching ethical and political consequences of private conservation. By suggesting that all that is required to protect the environment is good management by private owners, ESL deflects attention away from the 'socio-economic crisis' and confines debate and action to what can be achieved by the market. In doing so ESL sidesteps important equity considerations about the private ownership of endangered species and remnant ecosystems, including questions about the private appropriation of common heritage, public accountability, and community participation. The ESL case study shows that when conservation is turned into a private enterprise, environmental priorities can be compromised by the vagaries of the market and the needs of private concerns to earn an income. These issues throw into question the potential 'sustainability' of ESL's operations and the effectiveness of private conservation as a long-term environmental strategy.
Sydee, J and Beder, S, The Right Way to Go? Earth Sanctuaries and Market-based Conservation, Capitalism Nature Socialism, March 2006, 17(1), 83-98. Copyright Taylor & Francis. Original journal available here.