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Three decades of biodiversity governance have largely failed to stop the ongoing environmental crisis of global species loss. Yet that governance has resulted in undeniably important political outcomes. In Counting Species, Rafi Youatt argues that the understanding of global biodiversity has produced a distinct vision and politics of nature, one that is bound up with ideas about species, norms of efficiency, and apolitical forms of technical management.
Since its inception in the 1980s, biodiversity's political power has also hinged on its affiliation with a series of political concepts. Biodiversity was initially articulated as a moral crime against the intrinsic value of all species. In the 1990s and early 2000s, biodiversity shifted toward an association with service provision in a globalizing world economy before attaching itself more recently to the discourses of security and resilience.
Even as species extinctions continue, biodiversity's role in environmental governance has become increasingly abstract. Yet the power of global biodiversity is eventually always localized and material when it encounters nonhuman life. In these encounters, Youatt finds reasons for optimism, tracing some of the ways that nonhuman life has escaped human social means. Counting Species compellingly offers both a political account of global biodiversity and a unique approach to political agency across the human–nonhuman divide.
Introduction: Biodiversity, Agency, and Environmental Politics
1. The Awful Symmetry of Biodiversity Hotspots
2. Biopower, the Global Biodiversity Census, and the Escapes of Nonhuman Life
3. World Heritage Sites, Rocks, and Biocultural Diversity
4. Urban Biodiversity in New York City and the New Rewilding
Conclusion: Agency Revisited and the Future of Biodiversity
Appendix: Mixed-Criteria World Heritage Sites
Rafi Youatt is assistant professor of politics at the New School for Social Research and Eugene Lang College in New York.
"Counting Species is a compelling book, and I would recommend it for the elegance, thoughtfulness, and sensitivity of Rafi Youatt's reflection and writing. The book contributes in interesting and original ways to all the fields that it traverses; and successfully weaves high-level theoretical engagements through thoroughly-researched empirical material."
– Charlotte Epstein, University of Sydney