Environmentality, green grabbing, and neoliberal conservation : The ambiguous role of ecotourism in the Green Life privatised nature reserve, Sumatra, Indonesia

Wieckardt, Chantal Elizabeth; Koot, Stasja; Karimasari, Nadya


Against the background of neoliberal conservation and green grabbing, this paper investigates an ecotourism initiative through the notion of ‘multiple environmentalities’ (neoliberal, disciplinary, sovereign and truth), which concerns the governance of people for environmental causes. We apply this to the inhabitants of Batu Katak, Sumatra, Indonesia, where the Green Life Project has been established next to Gunung Leuser National Park as a Private Protected Area. An important governance strategy for Green Life is the establishment of volunteer ecotourism to generate funds and to include the local community. We argue that ecotourism can play a crucial role in legitimising the activities and increasing the power of nature conservation organisations, which, in the case of Green Life, is visible in the growth of coercive means to secure protected areas. If ecotourism is the kernel of neoliberal environmentality at Green Life, the core issue is the prevalence of truth environmentality, in which nature is often valued higher than people. This valuation led to the strengthening of disciplinary and sovereign environmentality. Arguably, ecotourism at Green Life will not establish the intended sustainable relations with the community, and this paper functions as an important lesson for practitioners to scrutinise the consequences of their governance strategies.