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Markets & the Environment I: The Environmental Logics of Finance

Fri, April 12, 8:30 to 10:00am, Hyatt Regency Columbus, Marion

Session Submission Type: Panel


What is the relationship between financial markets and the natural and human environment? Financial market-based solutions to climate change and other environmental problems have become a leading strategy of the global environmental movement. They are featured prominently on the website of almost every major transnational environmental non-governmental organization (NGO), and have replaced older ‘command-and-control’ regulatory strategies for several governments around the world. However, we know little historically about how finance came to save nature. Troy Vettese’s study of neo-liberal economist John Dales advances a new understanding of the origins of pollution permit-trading and reveals how Canadians became world leaders in Capitalist environmental strategies. Tim Paulson examines the ways that derivatives markets sought to control environmental risk by profiting off it. The relationship between derivatives and the environment became both the root of the financial objects’ success and the most powerful objection against them. Kathryn Olivarius examines a situation in which climate conditions posed a long-time obstacle for the growth of financial markets. Both insurance companies and individual clients developed new and contradictory means of quantifying environmental risk in human bodies. Together these papers reveal a long and changing history of the ways finance thought about the environment, which challenge the notion that finance is especially good at thinking about and managing nature.

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