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2007| January-March | Volume 5 | Issue 1
June 26, 2009
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Whims of the Winds of Time? Emerging Trends in Biodiversity Conservation and Protected Area Management
Bram Buscher, Webster Whande
January-March 2007, 5(1):22-43
This article reviews narratives and trends in biodiversity conservation and protected area (PA) management and examines contestations within and among them in the light of developments within the global political economy. Its argument starts with the assumption that trends in biodiversity conservation and PA management are, in large part, determined by global political and economic developments. The global political economy determines how both policy issues inherent to the conservation and development debate need to continuously be re-operationalised in order to remain politically acceptable. This argument is used to identify three recent trends in conservation, which we have termed 'neoliberal conservation', 'bioregional conservation' and 'hijacked conservation'. By illustrating these trends with empirical data from eastern and southern Africa, we aim to enhance the understanding and appreciation of macrosocial, economic and political dynamics-both constraints and opportunities-that impinge on conservation and development. In turn, this understanding could contribute to a better 'manoeuvrability' for the management and success of more technical initiatives that aim to improve conservation of biodiversity and PA management.
Introduction: The Politics of Engagement between Biodiversity Conservation and the Social Sciences
Bram Buscher, William Wolmer
January-March 2007, 5(1):1-21
In scientific endeavour related to biodiversity conservation, the perspectives of the natural sciences have long been dominant. During the last several decades, however, social science research has steadily gained momentum. The major achievement of the social sciences has been to investigate and emphasise the 'human side' of biodiversity conservation, ranging from local issues around social exclusion from protected areas and dependency of 'local people' on natural resources to more abstract issues of environmental governance and political ecology. But social science research is itself also a social process and its practices, assumptions and outcomes therefore deserve continuous critical reflection. The paper contends that when it comes to the engagement of the social sciences and biodiversity conservation the concept of 'politics' has tended to have negative connotations. However, we argue, like anything social, politics should not automatically be seen as negative. This acceptance could considerably improve relations between different actors and we therefore urge all those involved in the debate, especially social scientists, to take two crucial steps: first, the creation and acceptance of practical spaces for critical political engagement and second, the concomitant need for actors to scrutinise and reflect more consciously on their politics of engagement.
Seeking Common Ground: How Natural and Social Scientists Might Jointly Create an Overlapping Worldview for Sustainable Livelihoods: A South African Perspective
Nick King, Harry Biggs, Rael Loon
January-March 2007, 5(1):88-114
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.
New Architecture, Old Agendas: Perspectives on Social Research in Rural Communities Neighbouring the Kruger National Park
Barbara Nompumelelo Tapela, Lamson Maluleke, Clapperton Mavhunga
January-March 2007, 5(1):60-87
This article presents a summary of views expressed by individual local people and community 'representatives' on the issue of social research, prior to, during and after the Indaba on Social Research and Protected Areas: Towards Equitable Best Practice and Community Empowerment, held at Skukuza, KNP, from 29 March to 3 April 2005 (the 'Indaba'). Views emerged through a process of 'engagement' between people from communities neighbouring the KNP and social researchers. This article focuses on three key issues discussed namely, 'feedback', 'benefits' and local control over research. What emerges is that local people are unhappy about the general lack of feedback by researchers. They question the skewed distribution of benefits from research and assert the need to review the way in which research is practiced. Community representatives, those elected by local people into Kruger National Park Neighbours' fora (akin to tribunes), further argue for a degree of local control over research as a measure to reduce the 'negative' impacts of research on communities. Social researchers, however, express a concern about what local control might mean for the academic freedom of researchers, independence of research and the plight of the less influential members of communities. We argue that research ethics and funding arrangements must be understandable and agreeable with local interests, and that, as far as possible, research must justify its relevance to local concerns. The ultimate test for engagement is the degree to which commitment to local people's interests becomes a driving force bridging broader conservation and development concerns. Engagement should not be just about using social researchers to pull communities into the project of conservationists and their desire to save animals and plants, and big businesses that reap financially from conservation. Communities must come to the discussion not as raw materials for conservation, but as players whose own interests and feelings matter and need attention if a protected area is to mean anything.
the Local Community:
The Language of Disengagement?
Clapperton Mavhunga, Wolfram Dressler
January-March 2007, 5(1):44-59
For several decades now, social researchers have advocated and steered the popular paradigm of participatory, grass-roots research. The emergence of research that engages, transfers authority to, and empowers 'the community', apparently marks the end of centrist, top-down research initiatives. We offer an alternative interpretation of this assumption. In the case of one Indaba in South Africa-a participatory meeting-we show that while it seems to have achieved its stated objectives on the surface, underlying research beliefs and attitudes still interpreted 'local people' and 'the community' as simple, discrete concepts. Such concepts turned abstract processes into concrete entities. In turn, the use of such concepts by researchers ensured that local settings remained simple so that themes, participants and communities were readily accessible and easily understood. Social researchers thus reinterpreted local reality as if it were an absolute so that results would remain simple, effective and digestible. We conclude that rather than allowing local people to speak on matters that concern them, the discourse of this and other participatory meetings ensures that social researchers speak on behalf of 'the community'.
Landscape Images in Amazonian Narrative: The Role of Oral History in Environmental Research
Javier A Arce-Nazario
January-March 2007, 5(1):115-133
Oral history still plays a minor role in the environmental research disciplines. In this study, I present the richness of Amazonian narrative extracted from oral history, as a source of environmental facts and symbols concerning how Amazonians interact and perceive their ecosystem. Narratives are analysed as a set of structures that reflect on the biological, cultural and physical elements of the Amazonian landscape. The oral history interview process allows Amazonians to reflect on their landscape aesthetics preferences, leading to bottom-up proposals for Amazonian conservation, and reconstruction of landscape changes. Finally, the study proposes the oral history approach as a method that democratises the researching and interpretation of landscapes.
The Politics and Poetics of Water: Naturalising Scarcity in Western India
January-March 2007, 5(1):139-143
The Story of Asia's Lions
January-March 2007, 5(1):136-139
Life after Logging: Reconciling Wildlife Conservation and Production Forestry in Indonesian Borneo
Richard T Corlett
January-March 2007, 5(1):134-136
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