Sequestering Market Environmentalism: Geographies of Carbon Forestry and Unevenness in Uganda
Carbon forestry projects claim to be ‘win-win’ solutions to climate change, contributing to climate mitigation through carbon sequestration and to community development through carbon payments. This thesis seeks to evaluate this proposition; but in doing so, it looks beyond carbon forestry as a set of three differentiated types of projects (REDD+, Clean Development Mechanism, and Voluntary Carbon Market) taking place in isolated contexts, and seeks to debunk meta narratives of win-win, and essentialised understandings of the places, scales and institutions that underpin contemporary forestry governance and project implementation. Rather, I argue, we should understand carbon forestry as a project to 'sequester' not only carbon but also market environmentalism, through the extension of market logics and rationale to the governance of 'nature' and the environment. Taking up a geographic lens, I seek to show what market environmentalism does in particular places, and how it works spatially. In so doing I claim that carbon forestry, as a component of market environmentalism, should be evaluated as an extension, and deepening, of a substantive change to the ‘conduct of conduct’ of forestry governance itself. In order to think through how market environmentalism literally 'takes place', I draw from both political economy critiques and post-structuralist perspectives in geography. I utilise the concepts of assemblage and territoriality, and apply them to a case study on neoliberal environmental governance in Uganda. I use assemblage – denoting how extended social structures are drawn together from heterogeneous elements (or actors) – to understand how forestry is controlled through an arborescent, trans-national hierarchy, which I term the Market Environmental Governance Assemblage (MEGA). I use the concept of territoriality to explore what this arrangement does to forestry territories in Uganda, where particular meanings, power relations and constructions of social space comprise what are considered as forest ‘natures’. A key argument of this thesis is that there are three movements that are crucial to understanding and evaluating carbon forestry and market environmentalism in Uganda; firstly territorialisation, which refers, simplistically, to the establishment and defence of particular territory, and subsequently reterritorialisation and deterritorialisation. Through the concept of territorialisation I explore the emergence of what is codified and 'managed' as the ‘forest estate’ in Uganda and chart its relationship to the complex set of political and social relationships through the colonial and post-colonial State formation. This perspective brings to light a history of violence and dispossession, and shows that contemporary forestry politics are immanently connected to the broader trajectories and political economy of the Ugandan state. Through the concept of reterritorialisation I show how market environmentalism reshapes forestry governance itself. I reflect on how the establishment of carbon forestry and the neoliberalisation of the forestry sector work as lines of articulation, that rescale forestry governance and in so doing to constitute the new MEGA. These movements directly and indirectly extend the control of non-state actors, and the privatization, deregulation and commodification of areas of 'forest nature'. Finally to the extent that this happens, I argue the re-territorialisation of forestry governance accomplishes a deterritorialisation of the sovereign forest estate territory itself. Through deterritorialisation I argue we can conceptualise, spatially, how market environmentalism may be both environmentally and socially damaging in Uganda. What this experimental approach makes visible is that setting carbon forestry as the telos, or end point of conservation, to which actors must aspire and dedicate a perpetual flurry of activity, can lead to both 'false promises', systematic violence against local communities, and a selective extension, evasion and accommodation of the complex-dynamic causes of deforestation in the country. However, the approach also shows us that that this arrangement was not inevitable and does not have to remain the case, and that there are lines of flight across the three movements that point to opportunities for alternative arrangements; as Deleuze (1991) puts it, there is no reason to fear or hope, only to look for new weapons.
Advisor: Hill, Douglas; Rosin, Chris
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Geography
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Carbon Forestry; Market Environmentalism; Political Ecology; Assemblage; Uganda; Green Economy; Neoliberal Governance; Territoriality
Research Type: Thesis