March 10, 2016: Faculty Lecture
Jessica Dempsey

IRES Seminar Series

Time: 12:30-1:30 pm

Location: AERL Theatre (room 120), 2202 Main Mall

The end of cheap nature?

Jessica Dempsey


One thing that neoclassical economists and critics of capitalism agree on is that status quo economic processes are adept ‘externalization machines’, dependent on enormous amounts of unpaid or incredibly cheap nonhuman labour (what Jason Moore helpfully terms ‘cheap nature’). What can we learn about the prospect of ending cheap nature from efforts to make nature visible in political economic processes, from attempts to create what I call “enterprising nature”? This talk weaves through three phases of enterprising nature: biosprospecting, ecosystem carbon markets, and my current research on conservation finance. The difficulties and challenges of bringing these strategies to scale provide evidence that cheap nature may be better conceptualized as integral to contemporary capitalism, not as an unfortunate blind spot or externality awaiting the right evidence or metric to facilitate correction. This all leads me to ask more questions, and I hope to spend some time discussing future lines of research with those gathered at the seminar.


Jessica Dempsey is a new professor in the Department of Geography at UBC as of January 2016. Her research interests include global biodiversity politics, ecosystem services, and financial risk and biodiversity. With the CBD Alliance, she has participated in over a dozen major negotiations of biodiversity law and policy and worked with many NGOs and social movements to develop analysis and position papers on global biodiversity issues. She has published articles in leading geography and political ecology journals, including Environment and Planning A, Geoforum, and Progress in Human Geography. Her forthcoming book titled Enterprising Nature (Wiley-Blackwell), traces the rise of economic and market oriented approaches to global biodiversity conservation.

Note: Unfortunately, the video sound quality is not consistent throughout the whole video.  We sincerely apologize.