This document argues that 'environmental services' (also known as ecosystem services) provide the means of taking privatisation to a new level – a means of privatising many things that have as-yet been unavailable for privatisation: air, water and all sorts of other ecological processes. This document asks: what has been undertaken so far in the name of environmental services, and what are the implications of turning such basic elements into commodities?
The concept of environmental services has become popular over the last decade and, the authors argue, has crept into our collective consciousness without setting off the alarm bells it should have done. Originally coined by economists the term now appears frequently in documents, including a legal and institutional framework, produced by governments, the World Bank and other international bodies, universities and business associations. It has also been adopted in the vocabularies of development agencies, NGOs and social organisations.
This document arguies that one of the most urgent tasks is to take the veil off the economic objective and the ideological underpinnings of environmental services.