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Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
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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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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.


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