Popular Philanthrocapitalism? The Potential and Pitfalls of Online Empowerment in “Free” Nature 2.0 Initiatives

Koot, Stasja; Fletcher, Robert


This article investigates assertions that new philanthropic web 2.0 initiatives can empower Internet users to further social and environmental change. It focuses on two ostensibly “free” web 2.0 initiatives aimed at nature conservation: “Greenvolved” and “Safari Challenge Zoo Adventure.” With Greenvolved, clicking on one’s favorite projects is supposed to support conservation initiatives whereas in Safari Challenge users interact through gaming on the virtual African savannahs to conserve online nature, thereby supporting various offline humanitarian projects. Drawing on discussions of “philanthrocapitalism” and “nature 2.0,” our analysis demonstrates that such “popular philanthrocapitalist” initiatives do not support empowering collective action but instead depoliticize and commodify environmental activism. Such initiatives thereby allow neoliberal capitalism to further extend its reach under the pretense of empowering those whom it marginalizes.