Decolonizing ecosystem valuation to sustain Indigenous worldviews

Danilo Urzedo, Catherine J. Robinson

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Understanding and acknowledging the interlinkages within Indigenous social-cultural-ecological systems is a critical issue facing environmental policymaking and investments worldwide. This paper examines if and how ecosystem valuation frameworks have recognized and mobilized Indigenous worldviews and engagements. We undertake a state-of-the-art review of 120 academic publications and the reported experiences of 80 Indigenous-led organizations across 35 countries to identify decolonized ways of reorienting terrestrial ecosystem valuations. Our analysis reveals that mainstream nature accounting systems and methods often rely on instrumental and utilitarian logics that reinforce anthropocentric principles and the marketization of nature, while excluding Indigenous knowledge and value systems. However, this review also shows that Indigenous groups have contested and decolonized these scientific approaches to assert the legitimacy of place-based experiences, relational values, and rights to self-determination. There is also growing evidence that Indigenous Peoples are engaging with, reclaiming and reshaping ecosystem valuation procedures, policies, and markets across varying Indigenous contexts. These initiatives are diverse and highlight the agency of Indigenous communities to disrupt the separation of nature from humans through negotiations that embrace the coexistence of heterogenous and diverging practices that sustain interconnected social-cultural-ecological systems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103580
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Science and Policy
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023

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