Biodiversity for Billionaires: Capitalism, Conservation and the Role of Philanthropy in Saving/Selling Nature


  • George Holmes

    1. is a Leverhulme Fellow at the School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds (Woodhouse Lane, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK). He is interested in the politics of protected areas and conservation, and is currently working on a research project examining private protected areas in Chile.
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The author would like to thank all those who provided helpful feedback on earlier drafts of this article.


This article examines the role of philanthropy in conservation as a way of exploring how and why conservation might be becoming more neoliberal. It describes how conservation philanthropy supports capitalism both discursively and in more practical ways. Philanthropy is examined in terms of the two forces considered to be driving the neoliberalization of conservation — the need for capitalism to find new ways of making money, and the desire of conservationists to engage with capitalism as the best way of getting things done. It demonstrates how philanthropy can speak to both of these logics simultaneously, particularly through emerging ideas of philanthrocapitalism, which may be enhancing the neoliberalization of both philanthropy and conservation.