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Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
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Year : 2022  |  Volume : 20  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 12-23

Smart, Commodified and Encoded: Blockchain Technology for Environmental Sustainability and Nature Conservation

1 Interdisciplinary Studies in Environmental, Economic and Social Sustainability, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Cerdanyola del Vallès, Spain
2 Sheffield Institute for International Development, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK
3 Institute of Environmental Science and Technology, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona; Department of Geography, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 08193 Cerdanyola del Vallès; Institució Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avançats (ICREA), Barcelona, Spain

Correspondence Address:
Andrea Stuit
Interdisciplinary Studies in Environmental, Economic and Social Sustainability, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Cerdanyola del Vallès
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/cs.cs_41_21

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We explore the implications of blockchain technology for conservation and environmental policy. Drawing on an analysis of 27 initiatives, we examine their goals, assumptions, visions and workings. We find that these initiatives do not yet form a coherent approach, there is too much variety in their environmental focus, and the role of blockchain technology in achieving their goals. However, they share a faith in environmental-commodity markets, a penchant for surveillance and upward accountability, and lack a critical analysis of the main causes of environmental problems. Blockchain initiatives are forming a growing community of praxis and deepen ongoing trends in neoliberal environmental governance, characterised by the increased commodification and global accounting, surveillance and marketisation of environmental goods, services and outcomes. We suggest these services and outcomes fail to challenge the actual root causes of environmental degradation. At the same time, they are not all necessarily flawed by these characteristics. They can render information held by communities financially valuable in ways those communities may find useful. Future research should focus on exploring whether blockchain initiatives may at least translate in concrete environmental outcomes and contribute to the well-being of natural resource managers.

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