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Year : 2007  |  Volume : 5  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 88-114

Seeking Common Ground: How Natural and Social Scientists Might Jointly Create an Overlapping Worldview for Sustainable Livelihoods: A South African Perspective

1 Endangered Wildlife Trust, South Africa
2 Scientific Services, South African National Parks, South Africa
3 Transboundary Protected Area Research Initiative/IUCN-SA, South Africa

Correspondence Address:
Nick King
Endangered Wildlife Trust, P/Bag X11, Parkview 2122
South Africa
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

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Date of Web Publication26-Jun-2009


In this paper, an attempt is made to identify key factors that may enhance the basis for collaboration at the interface between social and natu­ral sciences, and to describe conceptually how natural capital differs from social capital. The paper begins by building on what is believed to be con­cepts common to both fields. In particular, it equates ecosystem services with natural capital, drawing especially on notions of the underpinning nature of ecosystem services as natural capital and suggesting key aspects of social sci­ence that add indispensable value to conservation, as part of a wider recogni­tion of social capital. It is concluded that it is most realistic and productive to regard the world, not as compartmentalised, but as an integrated socio­ecological system. In this regard by way of example, the positive potential of ecotourism in South Africa and how it integrates natural and social capital is contrasted with the negative potential of Invasive Alien Species. This leads to a discussion of South Africa's National Biodiversity Framework as an oppor­tunity to make use of an integrated approach to biodiversity conservation. The mutually beneficial co-existence of people and protected areas is pivotal to any success in this regard and the 'Swi ta Lunga' Trust is discussed as an emerging Integrated Conservation and Development project which has poten­ tial for mutually reinforcing positive natural and social capitals. A common understanding of the interconnectedness and interdependence of biophysical and social sciences, is the key to creating a joint platform for biophysical and social scientists, helping them to develop common objectives and a unified, or at least a significantly overlapping worldview. The paper concludes that a collaborative effort is required to drive the 'strong sustainability' paradigm that will allow the attainment of this common objective.

Keywords: natural capital, social capital, strong sustainability, livelihoods, socio-ecological system, integrated environmental management, multidisci-plinary approach

How to cite this article:
King N, Biggs H, Loon R. Seeking Common Ground: How Natural and Social Scientists Might Jointly Create an Overlapping Worldview for Sustainable Livelihoods: A South African Perspective. Conservat Soc 2007;5:88-114

How to cite this URL:
King N, Biggs H, Loon R. Seeking Common Ground: How Natural and Social Scientists Might Jointly Create an Overlapping Worldview for Sustainable Livelihoods: A South African Perspective. Conservat Soc [serial online] 2007 [cited 2019 Sep 21];5:88-114. Available from: http://www.conservationandsociety.org/text.asp?2007/5/1/88/49225

   Introduction Top

THE TERM GLOBALISATION in the twenty-first century has many meanings, but, without doubt, we are seeing much closer interactions between various human endeavours, from commerce to communications, scientific disciplines to social interactions, all facilitated by improved information and communica­tion technologies. The biophysical and social sciences are no exception. Con­temporary society can be likened to a 'global village' with a synthesis of diverse multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary issues taking place. While the study of iso­lated systems will always be valuable, there is an increasing trend to address cross-disciplinary issues (Lele and Norgaard 2005).

However, as with many such interactions, the first forays are often fraught with misunderstandings and attempts to impose respective ideals on the other party, each party often having differing underlying paradigms and resultant contrasting worldviews. This tends to lead to a simultaneous withdrawal from the 'frontline' and a rehashing of long-held perspectives that the opposing side is incapable of broadening its mindset, and thus will be impossible to work with. Recognising this and working together in an interdisciplinary manner to find common ground and a common language will help to bridge these divides. This, in turn, will provide the basis for an improved and in­creasingly integrated understanding of both worldviews. Conservation that is intricately linked with society and socio-economic concerns (such as address­ing the needs of local communities adjacent to protected areas) is increasingly becoming pivotal to biodiversity conservation planning. Especially in mega­biodiverse countries such as South Africa, such an approach may facilitate new and improved solutions to this current social-conservation conundrum and the need for effectively integrating conservation and social concerns (see, e.g. Curtin 2002; Magome and Fabricius 2004; Lele and Norgaard 2005).

From a natural science perspective such a conundrum is evident in the limited quantification of social aspects of conservation (such as measuring community par­ticipation for instance), which often makes it difficult to reconcile social sciences with the natural science paradigm. Natural and social scientists also seem to have differing basic assumptions about each other, which make it difficult for both to be incorporated on the same basis.

For example, a common (and often credible) caricature of a natural (bio­physical) scientist is one who only accepts something that has been through the hypothetico-deductive filter of Popperian falsification and thus qualifies as 'hard science'. One side of our argument in this paper is that natural scien­tists may be overconfident as to how successful their 'hard' knowledge will be in the real world, and that this 'hard knowledge' often fails because they have not considered the appropriate complementary social 'soft' science. This is often more difficult to come by and once come by it is difficult to use, hence the dictum 'the hard part is the soft part'. While ecologists are not consid­ered hard scientists in the strictest sense, the perception is still that they are 'harder' scientists than their social counterparts.

Conversely, natural scientists sometimes contend that social scientists view the world as one in which there are no immutable laws that cannot be circum­vented; more importantly perhaps, that the human condition is not subject to the laws of nature, at least in the short term, but to the vagaries of human po­litical power disparities. In this worldview, human influences override natural influences, and it is human relationships that determine the human condition. Some natural scientists contend that such a standpoint lacks a realistic appre­ciation of the underpinning natural sciences by simply discounting environ­mental concerns and management as socially dependent, often failing to recognise the limited supply of natural resources, and the concept of limits to the biophysical world in general.

Thus, the start of our common understanding, we opine, is to see the envi­ronment as not only physically, but also socially and politically constructed (Brandon and Wells 1992; Brandon et al. 1998). The key here is that this is not an either/or scenario, as exponents in either camp often claim-the inter­connectedness of the two, biophysical and social, rather than either compo­nent, is the missing link. Of the three, it is this last, the interdependency that is the critical component.

The first aim of this paper is to identify which integrating disciplines are relevant for the purposes of this discussion. Then we present a simple model using the notions of natural and social capital to illustrate the relationship be­tween the natural and social sciences and to describe how good vs poor gov­ernance structures can lead to either sustainable or unsustainable solutions. This in turn may have either positive or negative implications for human live­lihoods. These concepts are applied to two case studies in order to illustrate a sustainable solution where capitals may be growing (the ecotourism industry in South Africa) vs an unsustainable solution where capitals may have de­clined [Invasive Alien Species (IAS)]. Recommendations are made as to how an integrated approach adopted in the context of the South African National Biodiversity Framework might enhance a strong sustainable scenario. Finally, we discuss how such 'good' (i.e. positively reinforcing) natural and social capitals may be effectively harmonised and mutually reinforced in Integrated Conservation and Development Projects that address a number of 'people and parks' issues.

Therefore, the aims of this paper are: (1) to explain the similarities and dif­ferences in the perspectives of the natural and social sciences and suggest how some of these different fields can be effectively integrated; (2) to present a framework to explain the differences between natural and social capital in the context of good or bad governance and how this impinges on sustainability and peoples' livelihoods and (3) to explore the dynamics of such concepts us­ing two relevant South African case studies and suggest how an integrated ap­proach may facilitate promising directions such as the formulation of the South African National Biodiversity Framework as initiated by recent legisla­tion.

   Bridging the Divide Top

Although it seems that we are on a road towards globalisation, the modern world is still characterised by an unprecedented fragmentation and specialisa­tion of knowledge, including scientific knowledge. Yet solving environmental problems requires that natural and social scientists bring together such dis­persed knowledge to inform collective deliberation over the issue in question (Mascia et al. 2003). To build such common ground we first highlight those broad areas and disciplines unique to the natural sciences and the social sci­ences (relevant to this paper) and propose some areas we think might help to provide a joint understanding of the situation. We then suggest an 'intermedi­ary' framework for working together, based on cardinal aspects that impact on the natural environment.

Traditionally, mainstream biophysical scientists tend to see the world as set within a framework of rigorous natural laws [see for example Heinberg (2003)], for an in-depth analysis of the finite nature of energy available to us both globally and locally.

Natural sciences tend to have more defined parameters and are rigorous in the sense of being more limited and constrained than the social sciences. Natural sci­ence fields that broadly contribute to natural resource management include ecology, environmental sciences, conservation biology and agricultural science. Social sci­ence fields that broadly impinge on the environment include political science, law, economics, rural development and sociology (see [Table 1]).

Certain narrower overlapping disciplines that combine both natural and so­cial sciences and which may match issues relevant to each are listed in [Table 1]. Achieving sustainable use of resources we argue, very broadly requires cross-disciplinary work at the confluence of social, economic and ecological fields (see [Figure 1]). We provide two case studies selected to reflect real­world examples of either side of the social-ecology feedback framework and also how natural and social science can be integrated. We argue that such a combined approach can make positive contributions to a number of societal and conservation problems and issues: the ecotourism case study demonstrates how an understanding of sustainable tourism is needed to manage this sub­stantial industry in South Africa both at the policy and local levels; the case study on IAS provides an example in ecological economics by demonstrating the negative ecological and economic cost of poor governance and the need for stronger environmental management policies and practices.

Another example of an integrated approach can be found in the field of environ­mental law, which covers prescriptive issues with both natural and social compo­nents. South Africa has recently seen the emergence of progressive environmental legislation (such as the Protected Areas Act and Biodiversity Act), and environ­mental law provides one sound basis to address such issues. The field of 'ecological economics' may also provide useful tools for tackling such issues with both eco­logical and economic components. Since many contemporary real-world problems have both social and ecological dimensions constituted by natural capital and hu­man/social capital, this field views the economic system as being embedded in the ecological-social system (see [Figure 2]). As such, ecological economics may pro­vide another sound theoretical basis to address such issues (Aronson et al 2007). These two fields, i.e. environmental law and ecological economics are used to pro­pose a 'stick and carrot' strategy relating to the National Biodiversity Framework later in the paper. There is a growing need to address the concerns of local com­munities adjacent to protected areas, and ecotourism has the potential to provide many such benefits. People issues increasingly need to be integrated with parks issues and the fields of social ecology and anthropology, political economics and community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) can help build a bridge to connect the two. The 'Swi ta Lunga' Trust for example is an emerg­ing Integrated Conservation and Development initiative in South Africa that attempts to integrate community development with ecotourism and conserva­tion objectives.

While some social scientists have been criticised for being too broad in their analysis and 'soft' in their approach, some natural scientists have been criticised for too easily dismissing the influence of societal components. Some social scientists argue that 'tunnel vision' may prevent such biophysical scientists of taking full account of human decisions, behaviour and relationships. These include issues such as power, equity, trust, ownership, participation, dignity, rights, justice, legitimacy, beliefs and attitudes, governance, cultural linkages and indigenous knowledge.

These cardinal aspects that impinge on the natural environment are as important to understanding and resolving issues as are biodiversity, biomass production, nutrient cycling and all the other fundamental themes in say mainstream ecology. We reiterate our contention that the social and ecological themes are interconnected, and those interconnections are often the missing links in the overall story we are trying to piece together. For this very reason, it becomes important to define and strengthen such mutual and integrated links in environmental management.

   Ecosystem Services and the 'Capitals' Top

In this section, we present a simple model that aims to describe conceptually how natural capital differs from social capital, but how the two are inextrica­bly interdependent. More specifically, it shows how 'good' vs 'poor' natural capital and 'positive' vs 'negative' social capital leads to 'strong' vs 'weak' sustainability depending on the effectiveness of the specific governance struc­ture in place [Figure 2].

Conventional economics identifies three production factors, namely land, labour and capital (man-made fixed capital such as infrastructure). To bio­physicists, this corresponds to natural (incorporating the essential livelihood ecosystem services described above), cultural/social and culti­vated/manufactured capital.

  • Natural capital: comprises the planet's non-renewable resources such as oil, minerals, etc., and renewable ones, comprising natural and mostly unmanaged ecosystems, which, importantly, maintain themselves (and their provision of essential outputs/services) at little or no cost to people. Natural capital is measured in terms of ecosystem services, biodiversity, species richness and general natural significance.
  • Cultural/social capital: includes the knowledge and traditions people use to make decisions, exploit resources (and each other), manufacture prod­ucts and create values of our world. Social capital is measured in terms of employment created, GDP, returns on investment, but in general can in­clude (more difficult to measure) softer social capital (e.g. trust in rela­tionships).
  • Cultivated/manufactured capital: includes crops and forestry plantations and buildings, cars, etc. and derives from natural capital, although this fact is usually overlooked. Critically, unlike natural capital, cultivated and manufactured capital needs external energy sources and labour to produce and/or maintain them. Thus, they require significant resource in­put (investment of social and financial capital) before any output is real­ised, unlike natural capital.
  • Total capital: A capital asset is defined as a stock that yields a flow of goods and services. A society's total capital assets may therefore be broadly classified into manufactured, social capital and natural capital (non-renewable and renewable).
Natural, social and manufactured capital can be explained in the context of economic use values and in this regard conform to the principles of ecological economics as one of the primary effective integrating tools (see [Table 2]). Manufactured capital would represent the degree to which 'natural capital' is con­verted to 'social capital'. More specifically, social capital is applied to (renewable and non-renewable) natural capital to produce manufactured capital. There is a co­evolutionary interdependence between renewable natural capital and human social capital. Social capital adapts to the existing natural capital and to changes in it; natu­ral capital changes as a result of the influence of social capital. Manufactured capital is operated by social capital for the extraction and transformation of natural capital to produce goods and services (Tacconi 2000).

The issue of conversion of natural capital into manufactured or social capi­tal is crucial, particularly the situation where some countries or operations de­plete their natural capital without successfully creating sustainable manufactured or social capital in its place. This we term as 'poor' social gov­ernance, which includes not only poor attention to sound conservation (bio­physical) principles, but the lack of equity in access to resources, appropriate legislation, intergenerational, etc. When this happens, the situation becomes increasingly less sustainable, creating an undesirable feedback loop. This is in contrast to the sustainable situation whereby social and manufactured capital create a desirable feedback loop of sustaining natural capital, enabling contin­ual growth of appropriate social capital (see [Figure 2]).

We do not suggest by proposing this model that societies rich in natural capital will automatically and always generate 'good' social capital and vice versa, but rather both are needed to complement each other, to achieve sus­tainability (Stern 2004). Our model [Figure 2] recasts the common sustaina­bility diagram with the three overlapping circles (environment, social and economic; see [Figure 1] in a way showing that while, in an evolutionary sense, natural capital is the basis, that in an ongoing management sense, social capital actually holds the key to maintaining sufficient functioning natural capital for generating sustainable livelihoods, through its 'good' or 'poor' governance decisions.

It is insufficient therefore to recognise only the need for taking account of both natural capital and social capital; it is how the two interconnect that is crucial, i.e. the linkages rather than the components. This we suggest is not a simple one-to-one relationship of two equal but competing parts being traded­off against each other as so often happens; rather it is a complex system of each superimposed on the other ([Figure 2]; see also Gribbin 2005; Norgaard and Bear 2005).

By this superimposition we mean that a minimum amount of natural capital (incorporating provisioning services) must be present to underpin the exis­tence of all and any social capital. However, this is essentially the 'Time Zero' situation (the notion of 'time' in this context to be viewed specifically in an evolutionary sense-see [Figure 2]); at all subsequent time periods, both natural and social capital are present, and it is today largely the social capital that determines the ongoing condition of the natural capital base and its ability to continue to deliver services.

Thus, there is a requirement for the 'right' (good) social capital to provide the political governance needed to ensure the continued existence of that ade­quate amount of natural capital, which, in turn, provides the continuous posi­tive feedback needed for the ongoing growth of social capital. The 'wrong' (poor) social capital will of course lead to degradation of the natural capital resource base, leading to consequent degradation of the now unsupported so­cial capital and ultimately collapse of both natural and social systems.

While we realise that we are casting a value judgement here as to 'right' and 'wrong', we are doing so in the belief that the one leads to sustainability and the other to non-sustainability. In this context, it can be useful to view different approaches to environmental management as opposite ends of a con­tinuum. On the one extreme, the so-called 'strong sustainability' is that form of sustainability that depends on its value approach on there being such a minimum natural capital reserve, and is typical of the 'Deep Green Move­ment'. On the other extreme, 'weak sustainability' refers to a form of govern­ance that appears sustainable (through the large amount of manufactured and/or social capital generated), but which constantly erodes the natural capi­tal base in order to achieve this. This latter approach is typical of those who may have unrealistic and inflated faith in manufactured capital and human technology (Costanza and Daly 1992; Arrow et al. 2003).

Our contention is that only a 'strong sustainability' governance approach (manifested as 'good' social governance in the presence of an adequate amount of natural capital) is realistic in South Africa and elsewhere in the world (Costanza 1994; Jansson et al. 1994). Weak sustainability fails because it does not fully account for externalities (Rietbergen-McCracken and Abaza 2000; Tacconi 2000). In a finite world, weak sustainability, then, entrenches social inequities at a wider (up to global) scale by constantly drawing on ex­ternal resources from a wider natural capital base than accounted for. A pri­mary and valid concern of natural scientists is that some social scientists are prone to discount externalities and therefore on a certain scale may promote short-term security at the expense of long-term sustainability.

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment [Biggs et al. 2004; Mainka et al 2005; Millennium Assessment (MA 2005)] clearly shows that human liveli­hoods and survival depends on four types of ecosystems services flowing from the planet's natural capital (see [Table 2]):

  • Supporting services: (required by all the others), including soil formation, nutrient cycling, water cycling and primary production;
  • Provisioning services: examples include the provision of food, water, fuel wood, timber, fibre and genetic material. In developing countries, many daily necessities are provided directly from nature, for example water, grazing for livestock, bushmeat, honey, fruit, medicinal plants and hous­ing materials;
  • Regulating services: for example climate moderation, control of floods and river flow and regulating atmospheric gases in the air we breathe;
  • Cultural services: which supply the raw material of human cultures such as recreational opportunities and benefits, images, ideas, myths and tradi­tions, and scientific and spiritual understanding of the world.
The SAfMA report (Biggs et al. 2004) indicates that the 'good' social re­sponses most likely to succeed in addressing problems related to ecosystem services and human well-being will:

(1) Recognise complexity: Ecosystem services and the people who depend on them comprise complex social-ecological systems (see Berkes et al. 2003; Gribbin 2005; Norgaard and Bear 2005). Narrow, single-issue or single-sector perspectives are likely to promote unwanted consequences in other sectors. Responses that take all relevant sectors into account when planning for any particular sector are more likely to avoid unexpected surprises, and are better prepared for those surprises when they come. These so-called surprises are in fact usually simply natural perturbations (for example floods) at time scales greater than human life spans and often provide key opportunities for natural system renewal, to which those systems are adapted.

One of the most appealing frameworks to deal with complexity in a socio-ecological sense is that provided by the Resilience Alliance (http://www.resalliance.org). The framework suggests that all social and eco­logical cycles-which always co-form to the socio-ecological system, have front loops (the organised progressions we get taught in plant succession or theory of economic growth) but also back loops (the so-called surprises when the system appears to fall apart), which are inherent and which offer the major opportunities for creative reconfiguration. Loop depth (the extent of the crashes) is believed to be partly under our control, and is related to resilience, the ability to deal with challenges through fast learning and adaptive proc­esses.

(2) Look at the whole picture: Strive to create positive synergies. Where trade-offs must be made, decision makers must consider and make explicit the consequences of all options. Various tools can assist decision makers in visu­alising, understanding and communicating the issues at stake.

(3) Be made through an inclusive process: Making information available and understandable to a wide range of affected stakeholders is key. Asymme­tries in society give rise to asymmetries in information, education and income availability (see also Brockington et al. 2006). These are usually translated into unequal distribution of ecosystem service benefits, and reduced adapta­bility and responsiveness. Collectively, these asymmetries increase the vul­nerability of disenfranchised communities (Brandon et al. 1998; Magome and Fabricius 2004). In addition, benefits derived from ecosystem services per­vade society. The awareness of these benefits among different groups needs to be raised, and social and economic development need to incorporate these benefits (without raising unrealistic expectations).

(4) Enable natural feedbacks: The ability of ecosystems to continue provid­ing ecosystem services depends on natural feedback loops that can be seri­ously compromised when they are dampened by inappropriate management, policies and governance models. Perverse subsidies (such as certain agricul­tural subsidies) are among the most damaging of incentives that promote in­appropriate behaviours, and their eradication is an urgent priority. Responses must also avoid creating artificial feedbacks that are detrimental to system re­silience. Frequent, careful and rigorous monitoring helps to indicate whether feedbacks are functioning.

(5) Be implemented at the appropriate scale: The scale of a response must match the scale of the process; often, a multiscale response will be most effec­tive. In particular, tenure systems, institutional arrangements, and the role of privatisation have important implications for the continued provision of eco­system services. That said, there are no 'silver bullet' tenure arrangements for managing ecosystem services, and each situation demands a unique, scale­appropriate response based on situation-specific knowledge and consultation with stakeholders.

(6) Acknowledge uncertainty: Given the complexity of social-ecological systems, it is usually impossible to fully understand the structure or function­ing of a system to be able to predict the outcome of a response. In choosing responses, we must understand the limits to our knowledge, and we must be prepared for surprises, hence the need for a conservative approach. Many negative feedback loops relate to the unintended consequences of interven­tions, i.e. systems seldom work the way we understand them to work. Elimi­nating these require a restructuring of the development industry and this can be informed via both natural and social science tools.

(7) Enhance the adaptive capacity of managers and of ecosystems: Resil­ience is increased if managers have the capacity to learn from past responses and adapt accordingly. Resilience is also increased if the capacity of the eco­system to deal with change is enhanced or maintained.

(8) Assess and reassess the feasibility of alternative responses: A change in one or more of the system drivers can lead to a previously unfeasible response becoming feasible or vice versa. Care must be given to the prevailing social and cultural context in which the question is framed.

We contend that the framework depicted in [Figure 2] clearly outlines the theoretical linkages and dependencies as described in points 1-8 above from the SafMA report, which goes on to say that problems in complex systems re­quire complex responses. Decision makers, whether ecosystem users, manag­ers or governments, need to design responses that can meet such challenges.

Responses made in isolation are not likely to succeed, and coordination be­tween those who choose and implement responses is needed across sectors and scales. This will require greater cross-communication and an interdisci­plinary approach between diverse actors, and the free flow of information be­tween them. While our responses must acknowledge the limits to our knowledge about complex systems, we must strive to constantly improve upon it (Biggs et al. 2004). We are limiting our current discussion broadly to biophysical and social scientists as the main 'diverse actors' but propose that our main contentions agree whole heartedly with the general principles es­poused above.

While there is considerable flexibility and resilience within this framework, the frame itself cannot be breached without collapse of ecological integrity and depauperisation of natural systems. Further, natural systems bounded within this frame are not only complex, but highly connected and cannot be dealt with in isolation of each other. While certain properties of components can be studied in relative isolation (characteristics of individual species, river flows, etc.), it is the linkages between components that are critical to func­tionality, rather than the components themselves.

Importantly, humans are one of these components and thus as equally con­strained by these natural laws as all other species-and as such, bound by the immutable parameters of, for example carrying capacity, rate of renewal of resources, climatic constraints, susceptibility to disease and availability of wa­ter. Human ingenuity can ameliorate or compensate for these restrictions by stretching the boundaries somewhat. However, ultimately these laws do hold and the complexity of the systems is increased rather than decreased by such stretching (Allison and Hobbs 2006). Those who advocate an exaggerated faith in human adaptability tend to represent a 'weak' sustainability framework and may not recognise natural limits and constraints. In this context, one needs to know how to 'deal with' such complexity (Norgaard and Bear 2005). Finally, hu­mans are entirely dependent for their survival on at least a certain level of biophysical 'natural capital' as a resource base, a consideration which, we contend, needs recognition for social components to be successfully ad­dressed.

As the Millennium Assessment (MA 2005) has shown, the global stock of natural capital has already been depleted to such an extent that it can no longer support the development aspirations of less-developed countries. For ecosystems and biodiversity to continue to provide life-supporting goods and services, a certain critical mass needs to be maintained. As we do not know exactly how much to provide for what levels of livelihoods for what numbers of people over what periods of time it may be wise to adopt the 'precautionary principle' and err on the conservative side.

The two case studies described next were chosen to depict the difference between 'good' and 'bad' natural capital, 'positive' and negative 'social capi­tal', and 'good' and 'poor' governance, and how these factors influence the degree of potential sustainability (i.e. strong vs weak sustainability). More specifically, the ecotourism study (Case Study 1) shows that with 'good' gov­ernance we can enhance our natural capital in such a way that it continuously enhances social capital through socio-economics such as job creation, com­munity ownership, etc. The IAS studies (Case Study 2) provide very clear ex­amples of how, with 'poor' social governance, i.e. the deliberate or accidental introduction of IAS, immediate negative environmental impacts result, which in turn drive serious negative social impacts. (It should be noted that these ex­amples could act in the reverse fashion if the governance are bad vs good, re­spectively). The point is that 'good' social governance and environmentally responsible behaviour would act in the reverse fashion and facilitate more sus­tainable solutions.

Case Study 1: The Potential of Ecotourism in South Africa-'good' natural capital catalysing 'positive' social capital leading to further investment in 'good' natural capital.

The International Ecotourism Society defines ecotourism as, 'responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the wel­fare of local people' (Brett 2005). From figures supplied by the World Tour­ism Organization and the IUCN, it is apparent that many of the leading tourist destinations throughout the world are also countries that maintain a network of protected areas. Africa attracts less than 2 per cent of the international pool of long-haul tourists, which is an indication of a potential for significant growth. South Africa receives 1.7 million foreign (non-African) tourists a year, and eight countries, which account for only 18 per cent of all arrivals generate 40 per cent of tourism revenue. In 2003, the World Travel and Tour­ism Council estimated that the total tourism economy contributed 7.3 per cent to GDP, and could increase to 8.8 per cent in 10 years.

South African tourism has experienced steady growth over the past decade and is the only sector of the South African economy that has shown both a growth in employment and an increasing contribution to GDP. In other sectors of the economy, employment has actually decreased in spite of a positive con­tribution to GDP. Direct employment in the tourism industry in 2003 was es­timated (2003) at 491,741 jobs, or 2.9 per cent of total employment, but employment in the broader travel and tourism economy is estimated at 1.1 million, or 6.6 per cent of total employment. Within a decade this figure could expand to 751,100 jobs, or 3.7 per cent of the national total.

It is admittedly difficult to quantify the share of total tourism receipts that can be allocated to ecotourism. Surveys in South Africa indicate that 60 per cent of foreign tourists are interested in nature-based tourism, while in Bot­swana and Kenya wildlife viewing comprises 50 per cent and 70 per cent, re­spectively, of gross tourist income. Domestic tourism in South Africa accounts for 67 per cent of total receipts, and protected areas are becoming increasingly popular among local tourists. The Kruger Park now receives 1.3 million visitors, a four-fold increase since the1970s, and by March 2005, SANParks hosted 3.4 million visitors and sold 1.06 million bed nights. Pro­vincial reserves receive approximately half the number of visitors received by SANParks, and private reserves host at least one million visitors, possibly many more.

If ecotourism is examined as a category of land use, then it outperforms ag­riculture in the economic sense. South Africa's national parks currently gen­erate R115 per hectare per annum, which compares favourably with income from stock farming and is more impressive considering that Kruger and Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park comprise 78 per cent of all national park estate. Some protected areas closer to major cities perform even better. Golden Gate National Park earns an estimated R950 per hectare, five times more than ex­pected income from dairy farming, and yet it does not contain a single 'big five' species. The Park has also created more than 120 jobs, far more than would be possible from any other land use. Table Mountain National Park re­ceives 4.2 million visitors per year, many of them repeat visits. Despite not having the 'big five', it is the most visited national park in Africa. The close proximity of a national park to a major city helps to maintain Cape Town's position as a major tourist destination. British Airways flights to Cape Town and Johannesburg are among the airline's top ten long-haul destinations, the others being American cities, Hong Kong and Dubai.

Although state-run protected areas can indeed be profitable, especially if they are located near major cities, the economic contribution made by private game reserves is even more impressive. Research in the Eastern Cape indi­cates that private game reserves are earning in excess of R1800 per hectare per annum, fifteen times more than they could from stock farming or hunting but creating 3.5 times as many jobs at 5.7 times the average salary compared to farming (Brett 2005). This would suggest that seven private game reserves in the Eastern Cape, encompassing some 50,000 hectares of dry thicket and thornveld, could be earning R95 million, a substantial amount considering that the country's entire mohair industry generates R200 million annually.

On a continent where the vast majority of people are poverty stricken, and where subsistence farming generates less than R50 per hectare per year, the potential for private reserves to generate significant income for local commu­nities should be investigated further. Private lodges established in communal areas bordering national parks, with the benefits accruing to local communi­ties would likely exceed revenues from any other land use. Local communities are already benefiting from lodges in the Makuleke region of Kruger National Park and in the Kgalagadi, but there is much potential for growth (see case study on the 'Swi ta Lunga' Trust below). One of the greatest advantages of ecotourism, especially in remote districts which are often underdeveloped and far from government services, is the potential to create permanent jobs. A di­rect job is created for every 1.5-1.8 beds in a rest camp within a national park in South Africa. In the Okavango, when compared to trophy hunting, ecotour­ism earns three times more but pays out twelve times as much in salaries to local people.

Without the attraction of wildlife destinations such as the Okavango, Eto­sha, Zambezi Valley and Kruger Park, southern African destinations would find it difficult to compete in a highly competitive global market. Many other countries, such as Spain and Portugal, are within easy reach of major markets, have sandy beaches, predictable weather, scenic mountains, stunning architec­ture, fine restaurants and vineyards. As a holiday to southern Africa requires at least a 10-hour flight from Europe, without the extensive protected-area network, southern Africa would lose the critical mass needed to attract tour­ists.

Although the region currently receives a very small slice of total world tourism receipts for niche market tourism-such as ecotourism-location is not as important as it is for mass tourism. Niche market tourists are more dis­cerning and are overflying destinations such as West Africa and East Africa and are travelling the extra distance to southern Africa. African governments have often regarded protected areas as potential engines of economic growth. Simultaneously, increasing pressure on the national treasury for social spend­ing has undermined the funding of much needed capital investment in pro­tected areas. We believe that the interest shown in the transfrontier parks, and the potential to create many more protected areas in lightly populated regions such as the Karoo, can be translated into tangible economic benefits.

We thus propose that additional space created for ecotourism through the transfrontier initiatives, additional private reserves and the creation of new na­tional parks, must be maximised through partnerships with recognised private sector operators and adjacent communities. By so doing, it may indeed be possible in certain circumstances to perfect the win-win solutions for the benefit of all stakeholders.

Case Study 2: IAS-'poor' social governance leading to degraded natural capital leading to degraded social capital [adapted from Mathews and Brand (2004)].

This selection of examples of IAS and their devastating effect on liveli­hoods in Africa exemplifies the issue of the complexity of natural systems and the impossibility of uncoupling socio-economics from the environment.

Who benefits and who pays? This question is increasingly being asked in countries vulnerable to 'development proposals' that have unstated or unquan­tified risks, including those posed by IAS. IAS are those invasive plant or animal species that become established in a new environment, then proliferate and spread in ways that are deleterious to biodiversity and/or human interests. Moreover, ostensibly favourable aid or trade options may have devastating consequences when IAS risks are not ascertained and mitigated for. And the hardest hit are invariably the poor. Africa already has too many examples of unwanted alien species that have imposed severe constraints on development potential, through impacts on biodiversity, the productive use of land, water security, fire, human health and many other usually unforeseen impacts. And things are rapidly getting worse, as we will show below.

The spread of IAS is now recognised as one of the greatest threats to the ecological and socio-economic well being of the planet (see, for example the Convention on Biological Diversity; www.biodiv.org). It is creating complex and far-reaching challenges that threaten both the natural biological riches of the earth as well as the well being of people everywhere. Economic costs alone run into hundreds of billions of US dollars per year and substantial ef­forts are required to rectify the situation. Locally, in the Cape Floral King­dom, the invasion of alien tree species has decreased availability of water supplies to local communities, increased the frequency and intensity of fires and threatens native biodiversity, justifying government expenditures of over US$40 million per year in control programmes.

Examples of IAS that threaten biodiversity and have negative social and environmental costs include:

Lantana camara: Lantana is indigenous to South America but has been in­troduced as an ornamental plant in over 50 countries worldwide. It has in­vaded much of sub-Saharan Africa, forming dense thickets that displace natural indigenous plant communities and reduce agricultural productivity. The thickets disrupt the access of livestock to grazing and water, interfere with farming and forestry activities, and increase the intensity of fires.

By encroaching pastures, it reduces carrying capacities and productivity of ag­ricultural land, encroaching as a weed in a variety of crops such as coffee, cotton, bananas and sugarcane. Furthermore, the entire plant is toxic and ingestion of the leaves and fruit can poison livestock. In some areas, lantana thickets provide a breeding ground for tsetse flies, propagating sleeping sickness disease. Little else can grow in these thickets because the plant is allelopathic, i.e. it releases chemi­cals into the soil which prevent other species from germinating. The lack of un­derstory cover results in increased soil erosion, particularly on steep slopes. Impacts on local indigenous plant communities can be devastating.

Parthenium hysterophorus: Congress weed is an aggressive invader native to Mexico. Thought to have been introduced to Africa through imported wheat grain (including 'food aid' into Ethiopia!), it has invaded extensive tracts of sub-tropical areas in sub-Saharan Africa and South Africa. It invades disturbed land which has already been degraded, and also, being allelopathic, can quickly dominate pastures and croplands. It has such a devastating impact in Ethiopia that it has earned a local name meaning 'no crop'. It is unpalatable to livestock, so its invasion leads to grazing shortages. If it is mixed with fod­der it taints the meat and milk. Parthenium also poses a health risk to humans and livestock, causing allergic reactions.

Eichhornia crassipes: The water hyacinth, another South American native, is considered the world's worst invasive aquatic weed. The plant grows rap­idly, forming dense mats on the water surface up to a metre in thickness blocking waterways, obstructing fishing and other traffic. It impedes access to water by rural communities and their livestock, clogs intake pipes for water supply facilities, irrigation and hydro-electricity and has spread considerably on water bodies in South Africa. It also poses a health risk, providing an ideal habitat for mosquitoes and other disease vectors. By blanketing the surface it cuts out light and oxygen supply, creating conditions unsuitable for aquatic life, destroying fisheries in the process and affecting the quality of drinking water. Whole communities have been forced to abandon their villages as a re­sult of infestation of local water bodies.

Lates niloticus: Although not a problem in South Africa itself, the Nile perch was introduced intentionally by British authorities into Lake Victoria to supplement the indigenous fish stocks, which were being severely depleted by overfishing as a result of an influx of migrant labour to work on nearby tea, coffee and sugar plantations established by these authorities. The indigenous fish fauna of the lake comprised over 400 species of small cichlid fish, mak­ing up 80 per cent of biomass and about 20 non-cichlid genera.

With no natural predators and an abundance of prey, the Nile perch flour­ished. In less than 30 years, cichlids had declined to less than 1 per cent of biomass, with over 200 species already extinct, and perch making up over 80 per cent. But the bigger, oilier perch could not be sun dried like the smaller cichlids and required drying over fires, leading to devastation of woodlands, increasing erosion, increasing nutrient loads in the lake and sparking an infes­tation of water hyacinth.

The Nile perch also was in demand internationally, pushing prices up be­yond the reach of locals and stimulating overfishing, the catch declining by over 80 per cent by 2000. Not only has this introduction caused the single biggest mass extinction of vertebrates in recorded history, it has destroyed the sustainable indigenous fishery, destroyed whole communities and cultures based on those fisheries and today has left little of benefit in its place.

Mononychellus tanajoa: Some of the most damaging IAS in South Africa are agricultural pests, which can have crippling socio-economic impacts. While many introduced bacteria and viruses cause diseases of crops and live­stock, insect pests are perhaps even more destructive. M. tanajoa, the cassava green mite is a major pest of cassava, a starchy root crop that is the staple food of more than 200 million people in sub-Saharan Africa. A native of South America, it was first detected in Africa in Uganda in the 1970s, thereaf­ter spreading to more than twenty-five countries in Africa, including South Africa, causing an estimated 50 per cent reduction in yield of the cassava crop, with all the attendant negative socio-economic impacts.

Prostephanus truncates: The larger grain borer is a destructive pest of farm­stored maize and dried cassava in sub-Saharan Africa. Native to Central America, it was first detected in Africa in the late 1970s in Tanzania, where it increased maize losses by up to five times. It subsequently spread east, west and south, reaching South Africa in 1999. It is particularly damaging to grain stored on the cob after harvesting, but also stored cassava, cereals, legumes, tuber, peanuts, cocoa and coffee beans. To date, biological controls have been ineffective, requiring chemical control, with additional attendant negative human and environmental health risks.

   National Biodiversity Framework Top

The two case studies above represent examples of a range of environmentally related issues and challenges facing South Africa. South Africa's biodiversity 'stock' is estimated to have declined by some 20 per cent in the past century alone and continues to decline relentlessly, while the economy has grown considerably in the same period (Biggs and Scholes 2004).

Therefore, an exciting (albeit demanding) aspect of recent South African legislation (Biodiversity Act 10 of 2004) sets the stage for the formulation of a new National Biodiversity Framework, where a number of biodiversity conservation issues can be addressed. For example, such a framework must provide for 'an integrated, co-ordinated and uniform approach to biodiversity management by organs of state in all spheres of government, non-governmental organisations, the private sector, local communities, other stakeholders and the public. It also has to be consistent with national environmental management principles and any relevant international agreements, identify priority areas for conservation action and the establishment of protected areas, and reflect regional co-operation on issues concerning biodiversity management in southern Africa.' (National Environmental Management Act: Biodiversity Act 10 of 2005; 39[1])

The National Biodiversity Framework promotes the mainstreaming of bio­diversity and requires an integrated approach in all sectors of society includ­ing agriculture, infrastructure, forestry, fisheries, energy, transport, water and sanitation. This framework, we suggest, can best be informed by two cross­disciplinary fields: (1) environmental law and (2) ecological economics.

(1) Environmental law is indicative of the 'stick' approach and can be used in situations requiring prescriptive measures. This could include abandoning forestry policies that encourage resource degradation and the conversion of forest ecosystems to other less valuable uses, regulating the transfer of species and genetic resources and their release into the wild, asserting national sover­eignty over genetic resources and regulating their collection, reforming poli cies that result in the degradation and the loss of biodiversity in freshwater, coastal and marine ecosystems; eliminating agricultural policies that promote excessive uniformity of crops or that encourage the overuse of chemical fertil­isers and pesticides, i.e. environmental law could help to disincentivise and penalise counterproductive behaviour. The different drivers of global and of local agricultural production, pricing and marketing must become a central feature of national policy formulation.

(2) In contrast, ecological economics is indicative of the 'carrot' approach and can be used in situations that are more conducive to economic incentives. This might include the modification of national income accounts to make them reflect the economic losses that are incurred when biological resources are degraded and biodiversity is lost, a measure that would create an incentive to preserve such resources in the future. Other options include auditing the consumption of biological resources to raise awareness of the balance be­tween local consumption and production thereby encouraging stakeholders to manage such resources more sustainably; the strengthening of institutional property rights over our natural resources; reforming policies that result in the degradation and the loss of biodiversity in coastal and marine ecosystems through privatisation of particular resources; establishing incentives for effec­tive and equitable private-sector plant breeding and research; and reducing re­source consumption through recycling and conservation with positive financial returns on environmentally responsible behaviour.

The National Biodiversity Framework can also benefit from other recent legis­lation such as the Protected Areas Act as setting aside protected areas play a key role in conserving biodiversity and maintaining natural capital. Such protected areas and how they relate to neighbouring communities is discussed next.

   People and Parks for Prosperity Top

The emerging paradigm of CBNRM is becoming a priority in environmental policy planning as southern Africa tackles human population growth and the pressure of impoverished communities on the boundaries of its reserves (see for example Barnes 1995; Brandon and Wells 1992; Chambers 1998; Magome and Fabricius 2004; DEAT 2003a,b;). In addition, 'People and Parks' issues are being addressed by various stakeholders in South Africa, such as the Peo­ple and Conservation Department of South African National Parks, the Peace Parks Foundation and various research initiatives (such as TPARI-The 'Transboundary Protected Areas Research Initiative', which runs under the auspices of the IUCN). Although recently under challenge from some quarters (see overviews in, e.g. Brechin et al. 2002; Wilshusen et al. 2002), the general focus is on attempting to build capacity and address the needs of neighbouring communities adjacent to the protected areas in question, thereby turning a po­tential threat into an opportunity in a win-win partnership that is in the inter­ests of all (Braak et al. 2004).

Such socio-economic considerations are becoming increasingly important in biodiversity conservation. Further, to accomplish the challenges set out by the National Biodiversity Framework, there may be several broad recommen­dations relating to CBNRM that could form part of such a strategy. For exam­ple, first there is a need to quantify and bring to the attention of policy makers the many economic and financial benefits of integrating rural development ac­tivities with the conservation of biological resources and diversity. Second, there is a need to develop the capacity of local communities and the means whereby they can participate in conservation efforts, so as to ensure more immediate and real benefits to local people. Possible conflicts as well as po­tential for cooperation between the various national economic activities should be identified, and 'mainstreaming' biodiversity into other sectors can have positive socio-economic spin-offs. Finally, relevant policies and legisla­tion in other sectors should be examined for possible applications to the con­servation of biodiversity and community involvement in such work.

In order for conservation to be successful in Africa, there specifically needs to be an integral and participatory relationship between ecotourism operations and the communities living next to protected areas. An interesting example of such an Integrated Conservation and Development Programme is the 'Swi ta Lunga' (Tsonga for 'things will come right') Community Development Trust based in Huntington, Limpopo Province, which borders the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area and Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve in South Africa (Reynolds 2004a,b,c). This is an example of a project that at­tempts to combine political economics with conservation and natural manage­ment. It also serves as a good case study of the positive potential of ecotourism in providing certain benefits to neighbouring adjacent communities.

The 'Swi ta Lunga' Trust focuses on reducing poverty through the renewal of social capital-in this case the traditional values that enable this marginal­ised community to once again become resource owners, managers and inves­tors (see Brockington et al. 2006). Whereas in conventional markets, the producers or buyers are able to manage their activities by paying for them, such local communities often have no means to co-ordinate their activities. They remain 'dependents' of the state. This has been reinforced by the often empty promise of 'delivery' by the central government. The Government has now been asked-and a policy document has been presented to Cabinet-to provide 'child and investment rights' that form budgets managed by the Community Trust on behalf of all children and all 'equal owner' residents.

Child rights are maximised by buying food that is (mainly) locally grown and at locally determined prices. In this way, a significant new economic ac­tivity arises that is protected from global markets. Payments made to parents for food delivered to pre-, junior and senior schools are taxed to cover the school fees required. This transforms the 'community' into a competent part­ner for government, and one which is able to circulate public funds locally (the income multiplier here is four to five times). State salaries and other ex penditure, in contrast, 'leaks' away to towns producing a far lower local mul­tiplier of around 1.3. Once the system is in place, parents can bid for larger Child Rights grants per month in return for paying higher school fees. In this way, the government becomes an increasingly active investor through local citizens organised in Community Trusts, and people pay increasingly for so­cial services (consumption) with community bursary and other financial de­vices to provide social security for all children and adults.

Improved grazing, irrigation and other investment initiatives belong to all in a new modernisation of traditional joint ownership of the resource base. Members receive equal 'annual use rights' over each resource, such as gar­dens, grazing and irrigation. These rights are tradeable, giving rise to resource prices and hence to ownership 'dividends'.

Huntington is thereby reinventing itself as a 'Community as Business' ini­tiative able to partner government and business and other communities. The model promotes the greater circulation of money within the village so that Huntington can become economically self-sustainable. While Huntington gains the ability to invest cash and member labour to improve the natural and social resource base and 'within' community services, it will be able to take the longer view and promote women and child rights, provide training on sus­tainable grazing practices, community gardens, community banking and skill development in the hospitality and tourism industry.

The project needs to be viewed in the context of the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area. Huntington is but one of the villages in the 'Ntirhiswano' Forum, one of eight forums on the Western boundary of the Kruger National Park which comprises some 187 villages in total, reflecting the immense extent of this challenge (see Brockington et al. 2006). In addi­tion, there are a number of villages residing within and around the Limpopo National Park in Mozambique on the Eastern boundary of the Kruger.

One positive result for Huntington could be an African village in transfor­mation. Rural development tourism from neighbouring game lodges like Sabi Sabi should encourage the Shangaan people in the area to display their culture in an authentic and uncontrived manner, thereby encouraging a renewal of pride in their customs and history. This should hopefully also eventually lead to an interactive partnership with such tour operators and witness a 'commu­nity' such as Huntington becoming a represented party and role model in the context of other villages on the western border of the Greater Kruger Park Transfrontier Conservation Area. The Huntington 'model' starts from solid economic dynamics-the local multiplier-and the modernisation of tradi­tional relations within communities and between members and resources so that 'Communities as Business' are able to participate in regional develop­ment opportunities, often as equal partners (see www.peoplesagenda.co.za).

The primary issue in the context of this paper is whether the natural capital in the protected areas adjacent to such communities can create or lead to the enhanced social capital required to uplift such communities from subsistence farming and poverty. In particular, can the benefits flowing from conservation and ecotourism in the region, meaningfully (and sustainably) benefit neighbouring communities to the point where they voluntarily seek to sustain that natural capital? There are certainly examples where this is possible, espe­cially via employment in the ecotourism industry (see Case Study 1 above). Indeed, many on the 'Park'-side of the fence (especially those in the private sector) use employment as a strong and very real argument to justify the con­tinued existence and survival of such protected areas. Other tangible ways of benefiting local communities should continue to be explored.

The 'Swi ta Lunga' Trust breaks into new and promising ground. It de­mands that all citizens live in 'Working Local Economies' driven by eco­nomic and social rights programming that stimulates local activity with regular infusions of cash. It also promotes the creation of high local multipli­ers that generate greatly increased demand for locally produced goods and services, and by the modernisation of traditional equitable resource owner­ship, investment and management institutions.

The project's micro-scale efforts to integrate conservation and development objectives in one village/community can hopefully serve as an emerging re­gional example that seeks to address the parallel needs of social development and biodiversity conservation in other areas within the Greater KNP-TFCA. It now appears that parks and conservation agencies can also promote the paral­lel and perhaps more foundational potential that follows upon the move to 'rights' programming. Another partnership that may arise in addition to that between parks and people is that between communities and government in the provision of services, the redirection of state expenditure into local invest­ment flows and the creation of working local economies. Citizens must be­come financially enabled and institutionally equipped within working local economies. They can then come to enjoy the security and the sense of local control and welfare necessary for them to join others in their concern for longer-term biophysical well being, i.e. enhanced social capital resulting from a 'good' local natural capital base, which leads to 'good' social governance decisions to sustain and even grow that natural capital (see [Figure 2].

Urban people are often divorced from natural capital depreciation. Rural people, however, pay a high price as they are more directly reliant on the natural environment and spend more time and effort to gather the basic neces­sities of life such as water, fuel and medicinal plants. Rural areas are also af­fected more by the 'knock-on' effects of land degradation, such as loss of land cover, loss of soil, reduced water retention capacity, increased costs of main­taining soil productivity and decreased crop productivity. Continued deprecia­tion of the natural capital base increases social costs, through reduced nutrition, reduced opportunity, emigration to the cities and collapse of social structures and traditions (see [Table 3]).

In this paper, we argue that protected areas are a part of a social subscription to strong sustainability and attempts at retention of sufficient levels of natural capital, without thereby denying that society clearly has to convert some of its natural capital. Sound social governance must ensure that this is done effec­tively so that the conversion of natural capital is not wasteful and inequitable, but goes to growing the requisite social capital in a desirable feedback loop. For improved environmental sustainability and social justice (Brockington et al. 2006), we believe that social and biophysical scientists need to agree to fa­cilitate the implementation of such a 'strong sustainability' approach.

   Conclusion Top

In conclusion then, we are proposing a number of key points:

  1. The environment must be seen as not only physically constructed from a natural science perspective but also socially and politically constructed. It is in the continual interaction between the two that the greatest gap in our understanding lies. We do not yet fully understand how flexible and resil­ient the human component is, but we have a fair idea of absolute bio­physical limitations to exploitation and degradation, and that this can lead directly to erosion of social capital. Conversion of capital is inevitable but total capital should not be allowed to drop. This will happen if we skirt below, as we are already doing, the adequate stipulated level of natural capital, i.e. deplete our natural capital base faster than it can renew itself and its ability to assimilate human impacts.
  2. Participants in interdisciplinary projects need to be self-reflecting about their approach and should identify and use a core set of shared concerns. Tolerance is needed on both sides in order to work with differing models and alternative pluralistic approaches to problems (Lele and Norgaard 2005).
  3. We believe that natural and social scientists can and should work together on the basis of this 'strong sustainability' framework, given the common objective of achieving sustainable livelihoods whilst conserving our natu­ral capital as a basis for continually growing our social capital. By con­tinually seeking concrete linkages between the natural and social sciences (such as the formulation of the National Biodiversity Framework and ad­dressing the socio-economic considerations of biodiversity conservation and protected areas management), disciplines such as ecological econom­ics, environmental law and CBNRM, among others, have the potential of contributing constructively to the integration and synthesis of a growing body of shared knowledge and approaches between the natural and social sciences. An overlapping worldview between natural and social scientists, based on the notion of strong sustainability, may help solve a number of conservation and development issues.
  4. The common theoretical 'strong sustainability' framework described in the paper needs to be developed around practical examples on the ground that incorporate the maximisation of ecological complexity, while simul­taneously optimising social productivity. The potential of ecotourism in South Africa and how it might link and integrate with practical conserva­tion and community objectives to form win-win partnerships should con­tinually be explored. In contrast, measures to combat unsustainable practices such as IAS should be put in place.

The imperative is to start this process, and to sensibly choose non-trivial (but not overwhelming) prototypes on which to begin. The trick is to identify the specific area of overlap between the two and work from there. Once this 'space' is identified it may allow the respective practitioners to recognise the area of consensus while acknowledging their differences and thereby facilitate a constructive approach to a number of conservation-related issues. By identi­fying such overlaps between social and natural scientists based on a frame­work describing the interactions between social and natural capital, it may become possible to understand how such an overlap might combine different worldviews to meet on common ground in the interests of enhanced sustain­able use of our natural resources.


A TPARI/IUCN-SA conference that took place at Skukuza in the Kruger Na­tional Park, South Africa, in April 2005 provided the forum from which the theme of this paper emerged. Rob Fincham, the director of the Centre for Ag­riculture, Environment and Development at the University of Kwazulu-Natal, Norman Reynolds, advisor to the 'Swi ta Lunga' Trust, and Jim Igoe from the University of Colorado in Denver, USA, helped clarify a number of issues re­lating to this paper. Conrad Steenkamp, Will Wolmer, Bram Biischer and two anonymous referees are also thanked for influential feedback on earlier drafts of this manuscript.[36]

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36.Wilshusen, P.R., S.R. Brechin, C.F. Fortwangler and P.C. West. 2002. Reinventing a square wheel: Critique of a resurgent 'protection paradigm' in international biodiversity conserva­tion. Society and Conservation 15: 17-40.  Back to cited text no. 36    


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2]

  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3]

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