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Securing the sea: Ecosystem-based adaptation and the biopolitics of insuring nature's rents

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  • Jens Christiansen
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>31/07/2021
<mark>Journal</mark>Journal of Political Ecology
Issue number1
Number of pages21
Pages (from-to)337-357
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


With the emergence of the so-called Blue Economy, various conservation finance mechanisms and financial structures are being proposed as a means of simultaneously securing marine biodiversity and profit-making. A novel approach that is being applied within this new conservation finance frontier is the integration of ecosystem-based adaptation and insurance. By synthesizing recent literatures in political ecology on the notion of rent and the biopolitics of nature, this article explores how the integration of ecosystem-based adaptation and insurance can be seen as a technique that is mobilized for governing ecosystem rents biopolitically. The article urges political ecologists to pay attention to how biopolitics and governance of rents intersect in market-based environmental governance. While surveying the breadth of projects that involves both adaptation and insurance, I pay particular attention to a parametric coral reef insurance that was recently introduced in the Mexican state Quintana Roo. Such a project, this article argues, involves reconceptualizing the coral reef as an infrastructure that provides benefits – ultimately rents – to the local tourist industry and indirectly the state, but this coral infrastructure is itself in need of being protected through insurance as a biopolitical measure that can ensure the future life of the coral reef by rendering calculable uncertain, future climate threats to the reef. By reconceptualizing ecosystems as infrastructure that can be insured, the notion of ecosystem-based adaptation operationalizes otherwise systematic risks posed by climate change and biodiversity loss on a local scale. Finally, I highlight some of the complications that are involved when insurance is used as a biopolitical means of making nature live.