On the 25th of January, Dr George Iordachescu will give a lecture at the Sustainability Research Institute Seminar at The University of Leeds titled ‘New frontiers of conservation: power, access and philanthrocapitalism in a European wilderness’.
The expansion of protected areas is embedded into regional green growth agendas such as the European Green Deal, and constitutes a central feature of recent international agreements such as the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework which proposes various scenarios for enhancing the strict protection of nature. Conservationists suggest that a growing interest in conserving ‘untouched’ nature will mark a new era in intergovernmental cooperation and will conclude with the introduction of ‘wilderness’ values in sectors such as agriculture, energy and infrastructural developments. Read as part of a global attempt to strictly secure large areas of land for nature to develop according to its own rules, the European wilderness momentum appears as a process of re-territorialisation on the one hand, and as the creation of a new resource on the other. The new resource has become of utmost importance amongst EU strategies for green growth and climate change mitigation. Although merely a decade old, such conservation approaches have triggered important changes in socio-environmental relations on the ground. The seminar will discuss how these wilderness protection projects have predominantly targeted the outer regions of the EU, creating an imagined green periphery where powerful actors are working towards controlling access to resources, commons, knowledge production and over the nature to be commodified. The development of wilderness protection in the region will be discussed as a process of unequal ecological exchange between a wealthier western core where decision-making processes, hegemonic conservation knowledge and financial mechanisms are concentrated and deployed to fix, restore, reconstruct and sustainably use ‘nature’ discovered in a periphery characterised by backwardness, subsistence, land abandonment and depopulation.