Contestations Over Biodiversity Protection: Considering Peircean Semiosis

Environmental Values 21 (3):357-378 (2012)

Abstract
We develop the general outlines of an evolutionary biodiversity policy that is consistent with the pragmatism of Charles Sanders Peirce and the institutional economics of John R. Commons. Our model is applied to recent experiences with biodiversity policy in Finland, especially a local policy initiative: Natural Values Trading. The purpose of this experiment was to explore how a voluntary, fixed-term, payment- and incentive-based scheme for biodiversity protection might perform. As a result of the experiment, the principles of the scheme have become a formalised part of Finnish forest biodiversity law and policy. In this paper we analyse the evolution of this particular institutional arrangement by applying Peircean semiosis and the negotiational psychology of Commons. A central component of our approach will be to explicate the role and significance of sign processes in: how and why the need for new policy instruments emerges; how those policies are developed, designed and tested; and how decisions about those new instruments are made. We urge that the sign process should play a greater role in how scholars understand the evolution of biodiversity policy. Semiosis is 'good to think with'.
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DOI 10.3197/096327112x13400390126091
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