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To Revalue the Rural? Transformation of the Mexican Federal Payments for Ecosystem Services Programs from Neoliberal Notion to Development Dogma

  • Author(s): Shapiro, Elizabeth N
  • Advisor(s): Huntsinger, Lynn
  • et al.
Abstract

The Mexican national Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) programs pay rural landholders for hydrological services, carbon sequestration, biodiversity conservation, and improvement of agroforestry systems. The initial design of these programs was decidedly neoliberal, from their emphasis on the superior efficiency of market vs. state led environmental solutions, the attempt to institutionalize new property rights, and the explicit goal of commodifying ecosystem functions. My dissertation examines how the neoliberal notions of the programs' designers were hybridized at four distinct sites of articulation: 1) the federal politics of poverty alleviation in Mexico; 2) the institutional and cultural context of the ecosystem services being commodified; 3) rural social movements with distinct conceptualizations of `conservation' and `development'; and 4) the grounded environmental and political realities of rural Mexico. This analysis is based on a multi-sited ethnography conducted with program participants, intermediary organizations, and designers. It draws on recent literature in geography on neoliberal environmental governance and theories of hybridity to examine why and how the Mexican national PES program was hybridized at multiple scales, from the halls of the executive branch to the farmer's field, and in multiple forms, from the rhetoric of political speeches to the specific elements of the policy's design and from the theoretical tinkering of neoclassical economists to the quotidian practices of rural environmental managers.

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