Language is surely one of the greatest political weapons ever invented because it invisibly defines the world in narrow ways and can impair our capacity to see and think clearly. This is one of the takeaways I had after looking through Sian Sullivan’s new website, “The Natural Capital Myth and Other Stories,” which collects twelve years of her writing (2008 to present) on this theme.
Sian has long brought laser-beam clarity to the ways in which capitalism redefines the more-than-human world in financial terms. The investor class has not just introduced a handful of words; they have invented an entire worldview that erases nature and turns it into an essential element of capitalist production and profit. The natural world is re-interpreted through the scrim of money. That may not be pernicious in and of itself, but now that this perspective informs how the market/state order relates to the natural world, well….that’s a serious problem.
By “financialization,” Sullivan means the “revisioning and rewriting of the natural world in terms of financial terms and concepts.” She also means that banks and financiers regard “environmental conservation activities as new possibilities for speculative investments and products” – a new zone for profiteering and capital accumulation.
This is deeply concerning because, as conservation itself becomes a way to make money, the line between “nature” and “capital” is starting to blur. The Orwellian term “natural capital” has become a way to justify a relentless extractivism, in the name of preserving nature!