Stentor Danielson recently interviewed Sarah Milne, author of Corporate Nature, An Insider’s Ethnography of Global Conservation, on the New Books in Geography podcast.
In 2012, Cambodia’s most prominent environmental activist was brutally murdered in a high-profile conservation area in the Cardamom Mountains. Tragic and terrible, this event magnifies a crisis in humanity’s efforts to save nature: failure of the very tools and systems at hand for advancing global environmental action. Sarah Milne spent more than a decade working for and observing global conservation projects in Cambodia. During this time, she saw how big environmental NGOs can operate rather like corporations. Their core practice involves rolling out appealing and deceptively simple policy ideas, like Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES). Yet, as policy ideas prove hard to implement, NGOs must also carefully curate evidence from the field to give the impression of success and effectiveness.
In Corporate Nature: An Insider’s Ethnography of Global Conservation, Milne delves inside the black box of mainstream global conservation. She reveals how big international NGOs struggle in the face of complexity—especially in settings where corruption and political violence prevail.