This paper develops an “external” critique of the Ecosystem Services approach (ESS). It argues that the contemporary emergence of ecosystems series as a tool for policy and decision-making, has to be viewed as part of a wider historical shift in how cities and societies are being governed. This shift has since the 1980s been part of what has been called New Public Management, which is a very specific form of governing based on quantification, measurement and pricing. Thus, rather than a more objective tool for decision-making, we should view ESS as simply one practice among several others of how values of urban nature is articulated through social practice. While gesturing to be objective, operates to de-contextualize and de-politicize urban landscapes. In our case study, Cape Town and its nature is rendered without its deeply unequal and political history. As ESS is spreading across the world as a way to “deal with” nature, ecosystems and ecology, this paper provides crucial and critical questions, in particular in postcolonial cities and landscapes. 

This paper can be viewed or downloaded here.