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Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
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   2005| April-June  | Volume 3 | Issue 2  
    Online since July 11, 2009

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Culture as Concept and Influence in Environmental Research and Management
Lesley Head, David Trigger, Jane Mulcock
April-June 2005, 3(2):251-264
Given that human activities have been implicated in the vast ma­jority of contemporary environmental problems, it might be expected that re­search effort into those activities and the attitudes from which they stem would be both strongly supported by funding agencies, and of central interest to environmental scientists and land managers. In this paper we focus on an undervalued area of environmental humanities research-cultural analysis of the beliefs, practices and often unarticulated assumptions which underlie hu­man-environmental relations. In discussing how cultural processes are cen­tral to environmental attitudes and behaviours, and how qualitative research methods can be used to understand them in depth, we aim to address the prac­tical challenges of environmental sustainability. Using examples from re­search on diverse cultural engagements with Australian environments, we aim to stimulate further dialogue and interaction among humanities and natural science scholars and practitioners.
  18,341 1,817 -
Epilogue: Towards a Politics of Dwelling
Tim Ingold
April-June 2005, 3(2):501-508
Assertions about the existence and constitution of 'nature' are not statements of fact but claims to original human potentialities, lying on the 'far side' of society. The concept of nature is thus inherently political. In reality, human beings do not dwell on the other side of a boundary between society and nature but in the same world that is inhabited by creatures of all kinds, human and non-human. Can a 'dwelling perspective', then, be combined with the recognition that human lives are lived collectively within fields of power? Is human History necessarily distinguished from the history of non-humans on the grounds that only the former involves the reproduction of power relations in the production of Society? The paper argues that there are not two kinds of history but one, comprised by the interplay of diverse human and non-human agents in their mutual relations. The infliction of pain and suffering is not limited to relations among humans. Like other creatures, humans adopt various means to protect themselves. In so doing, they create places. Ultimately, how­ever, the protection of place and the protection of nature are incompatible. The politics of dwelling lie in this incompatibility and the struggles it entails.
  9,374 2,644 -
Of Apes and Men: Baka and Bantu Attitudes to Wildlife and the Making of Eco-Goodies and Baddies
Axel Kohler
April-June 2005, 3(2):407-435
In this essay particular local attitudes to wildlife are compared with western representations of such engagement with the natural environ­ment. The ethnographic focus is on Baka (Pygmies) and their Bantu-speaking neighbours living side by side in the rainforest of the north-western Republic of Congo (Brazzaville). Their current attitudes to gorillas and chimpanzees, both CITES-protected species, seem to confirm western stereotypes of Pygmy hunter-gatherers living in tune with their environment and caring for it, and of Bantu farmers as invading the forest with little or no conservation ethic. How did these moral tales of proto-ecologists versus 'eco-baddies' develop and what is the history of such polarising ideology? How have these ideas been appropriated and used in environmental discourse, and how do they map onto current perceptions and attitudes on the ground? Heeding these ques­tions a specific history of representations is discussed, starting from an as­sumed Pygmy aboriginality and a Bantu status as late-coming forest colonisers and leading to a pervasively dichotomous view of their cultures and socio-ecological relations. A closer, anthropologically informed look at contemporary Baka and Bantu perceptions and attitudes to wildlife, however brings home the need for historical contexts and in-depth research both into social and cultural configurations and into situated ecological and economic knowledges and practices to uncover subtle distinctions within local models and the complexities of behaviour.
  9,848 1,942 -
Changing Protection Policies and Ethnographies of Environmental Engagement
Ben Campbell
April-June 2005, 3(2):280-322
Attempts to protect nature by control of human intervention in areas demarcated for biodiversity have given rise to difficult questions of practicality and social justice. This introduction to a set of studies by anthro­pologists on the relationship between conservation and local community re­sponses to protection measures, looks at the twin processes of rethinking conservation in socially inclusive ways and theoretical developments in view­ing human relationships with environments that emphasise their interactive qualities. Whereas oppositional contrasts between nature and society charac­terised both conservation and anthropology in most of the twentieth century, more mutualistic frameworks are now emergent. Participatory conservation seeks to give voice to local concerns and indigenous perspectives, while social theory has increasingly recognised the cultural and political baggage that ac­companies attempts to impose natural states on environments characterised by histories of human-environmental engagement. A central focus is given to the dynamics of place in this special issue, so that the impacts of global agen­das for nature protection are viewed from the grounded positions of people's lives and their ways of thinking about and dealing with the changes brought about by conservation measures, which reconfigure relations of community, territory and resources
  5,584 1,142 -
Biodiversity of Mangrove Ecosystems
Kartik Shanker
April-June 2005, 3(2):537-539
  5,450 880 -
Nature's Discontents in Nepal
Ben Campbell
April-June 2005, 3(2):323-353
In the last two decades, nature conservation has adapted to new demands for social inclusion, and people-friendly protected area manage­ment. This article examines how participatory conservation has introduced such ideas in the form of buffer zones and policies to make conservation more amenable to local people's interests in Nepal. It looks at contrasting institu­tional situations of an old national park under reform (Langtang), a new na­tional park combined with a conservation area (Makalu-Barun), and a conservation area of high tourist interest (Annapurna). The article draws on extensive ethnographic knowledge in the first case, and discusses the experi­ence of interactions with local villagers during treks in the other cases, to question the responsiveness of participatory conservation to local people's needs, and their perceptions of changed relationships to their environments under these different regulatory regimes. It argues that the framework in which material incentives are provided for villagers to forego traditional en­vironmental entitlements, fails to recognise the cultural transformation en­tailed in constituting the environment as an object (for protection), external to people's varied kinds of interactive practice. The aim of integrating indige­nous knowledge with conservation goals is shown to be elusive when culture is seen as a resource for conservation, rather than a view on environmental relationships.
  4,934 961 -
Environmental Conservation and Local Interests in Finnish Lapland
Nuccio Mazzullo
April-June 2005, 3(2):388-406
In this paper I consider the historical development that marked the beginning of Finnish environmental policies in the mid-nineteenth century that resulted in the foundation of the first national parks in the north of Finland and in some important laws, passed by the Finnish government, aimed at rationalising felling strategies. After the Second World War, compel­ling financial needs and increased modernisation led to a further intensifica­tion of forest felling and to the appearance of the first forms of resistance to government forestry policies and to the formation of an environmental con­servation movement. With the Finnish membership to the European Union in 1995, and with the consequent impact of European environmental policies on the Finnish ones, the environmental conservation debate reached a new level that is epitomised by the controversy currently surrounding the European en­vironmental protection project 'Natura 2000'. With particular reference to Finnish Lapland, the enforcement of already existing environmental protec­tion measures by the European Ministry of Environment rekindled a contro­versy that highlighted the diversity of impact that these measures had on the variegated ethno-social landscape of the Municipality of Inari. Sdmi and Finnish people, along with environmental and government agencies, environmentalists and economists, could in theory share a similar aim: namely, the sustainable growth that would guarantee the continuity of the bio-cultural diversity of this region. I have argued that the position people take in relation to environ­mental protection cannot simply be predicted or deduced on the basis of any single variable, be it ethnic affiliation, social status, livelihood, or whatever. For this reason, following the claims made by those who are at the receiving end of policies, it is suggested that the implementation of successful environmental policies can be achieved only through democratic practices that allow the full participation in decision-making processes of representa­tives of all parties involved.
  4,630 596 -
The Politics of Environmental Technology Choice for Rural Electrification in Northern Thailand
Donna Green
April-June 2005, 3(2):265-279
The emphasis on using 'environmental' technologies for rural development is a defining feature of sustainable development. The perceived benefits attributed to such technologies relate to their capacity to mitigate en­vironmental problems alongside the promotion of social and economic deve­lopment. However, the success of these technologies in bringing about socially equitable and environmentally efficient outcomes remains unscruti­nised. This report addresses this gap in the literature by examining the state­led introduction of an environmental technology for rural electrification in northern Thailand. This study argues that contrary to the programme objec­tives that allude to a sustainable development rationale, the introduction of the solar electric systems led neither to beneficial environmental outcomes nor to a socially sustainable technology transfer. Moreover, it is evident that these programmes were not designed to consider, much less meet, the most basic energy needs of the communities that they purported to serve. To ex­plore why this situation might have arisen, the motivations of previous rural electrification programmes are considered: an analysis of which reveals a highly politicised, ethnically divisive state-serving agenda. Given the inability of the chosen technology to fulfil its objectives, it is concluded that this pro­gramme might have been directed by similar state-serving agendas-with the addition of the appearance of promoting environmentally sustainable deve­lopment.
  4,474 603 -
Nature Makes them Lazy: Contested Perceptions of Place and Knowledge in the Lower Amazon Floodplain of Brazil
Mark Harris
April-June 2005, 3(2):461-478
This article considers how fisherpeople, who live on the Lower Amazonian floodplain, perceive their environment. It contrasts their views with those of elite townspeople and attempts to put these differences in a brief historical context. If these perceptions are historical and part of an estab­lished tradition of local knowledge, what role should they play in the conser­vation of the floodplain? My aim in this article is to show how the floodplain is a multilayered place requiring skilled knowledge to survive. It is made by human labour, as well as the river and its movements. This kind of knowledge is a key resource for environmental management. By focusing on 'local knowledge' I am trying to complement the work of NGOs who are dedicated to community forms of management. My intention is to show the horizons that conservationists should be aware of if recent anthropological understandings of human-environmental relatedness are to be taken seriously. For all the la­bels and models used to describe floodplain residents and their work we can­not really know them until we know what they know and how they come to know. This perspective complements the expert and specialised knowledge of outsiders.
  4,367 570 -
Of Otters and Humans: An Approach to the Politics of Nature in Terms of Rhetoric
Werner Krauss
April-June 2005, 3(2):354-370
Local protest against the establishment of conservation zones is a worldwide phenomenon. Environmental protests focus not only on pollution and protection, but tend with almost magnetic force to centre around more abstract concepts such as identity, power, and development issues. Using as a case study a nature park in the South of Portugal, I trace the complex process of nature conservation as a rhetorical construction, as I focus on the relation between people and animals. This nature park was legitimised not at least by reference to an endangered species of otters, which also play an important role in the ongoing controversial debate about tourism, construction and in­dustrialised international agriculture. The article highlights encounters be­tween people and these otters from different perspectives: their representation in the media, in nature conservation discourse, and in local discourse and practises. Significantly, the otter becomes a powerful metaphor in both con­servationist and (opposing) local discourses. The discussion suggests that, given the complexity and multitude of issues involved in such cases, the im­plementation of nature conservation strategies is changing the relation not only between man and nature, but between people themselves. While the con­troversy surrounding this particular nature park found a resolution (at least a temporary one), surrounding issues of development, identity and power rela­tions remain unresolved.
  4,404 494 -
Role of Monitoring in Institutional Performance: Forest Management in Maharashtra, India
Rucha Ghate, Harini Nagendra
April-June 2005, 3(2):509-532
In this article we examine the role of 'monitoring', believed to be crucial for effective participatory common property management. While gov­erning a common pool resource such as forests, there may be conditions that tempt individuals to cheat and gain substantially higher benefits. This is dis­advantageous for other participants, and can adversely affect resource condi­tion. Monitoring includes ensuring rule compliance, dealing with infractions and guarding forest areas against outsider entry. Here we examine the impact of institutional structure on monitoring and, consequently, on the effective­ness of forest management. We examine the three most frequent approaches in India, namely community-initiated management, non-governmental organisa­tion (NGO) promoted forest management, and state-sponsored Joint Forest Management (JFM). Through a comparison of 3 case studies in the Gadchi­roli district of Maharashtra in central India, we conducted a detailed com­parison of forests that are situated in similar bioclimatic conditions and similar social environments. We assess community approaches to monitoring using detailed social interviews with communities and integrate this with an analysis of forest condition at the tree, sapling and seedling level using forest plot data. Our findings indicate that local enforcement has been most effective in the case where forest management was initiated by the community, with better regeneration, and negligible evidence of grazing and fire. Inefficient monitoring was apparent in the state-initiated JFM village, with uncontrolled grazing and fire, leading to heavy damage to the forest. In the third case, with NGO-promoted forest management, greater importance was given to protect­ing the resource from outsiders, while neglecting the overuse of forest prod­ucts by the community members.
  4,219 666 -
From Hostile Backwater to Natural Wilderness: On the Relocation of 'Nature' in Epirus, Northwestern Greece
Sarah F Green
April-June 2005, 3(2):436-460
This paper focuses on a familiar process underway in recent years in many parts of Europe and indeed much of the rest of the world: the attempt (usually policy-led) to redefine relatively remote and depopulated ar­eas as sites of natural and/or cultural heritage, in order to enhance the viabil­ity of such regions. [1] Many studies have focused upon what this process means in cultural, political and/or environmental terms. [2] This paper concentrates in­stead on what such 're-branding' means in terms of the relative location and reputation of such remote regions: do peripheral places become more central as a result of being given a new gloss of cultural and/or natural heritage paint? Using ethnographic fieldwork carried out in Epirus, northwestern Greece, the paper argues that both past representations of Epirus as a 'hos­tile backwater' and more recent ones as 'natural wilderness' generate a simi­lar relative location between Epirus and elsewhere: i.e. that it is peripheral in relation to an imagined centre of things. The implication is that while con­cepts of nature and culture have been on the move in recent years, the past hierarchies distinguishing more marginal (and more 'natural') places from more central (and more 'cultural') places have been reiterated.
  4,230 453 -
Jungles, Reserves, Wildlife: A History of Forests in Assam
Jayeeta Sharma
April-June 2005, 3(2):533-537
  3,880 440 -
Environmental Values through Thick and Thin
John O'Neill
April-June 2005, 3(2):479-500
A tension is sometimes evident between some philosophical and anthropological approaches to environmental values, in particular between philosophical aspirations for a thin, cosmopolitan moral language that tran­scends local culture, and anthropological aspirations to uncover a thick nor­mative vocabulary that is local to particular cultures. The potential dangers in the philosophical project of presenting specific local understandings and evaluations of nature as universal are illustrated in other papers in this vol­ume. However at the same time they also highlight a false assumption that underpins the apparent conflict between the two disciplinary approaches, the assumption that wider cosmopolitan conversations require abstraction from thick normative vocabulary. Examples of local resistance to the imposition of particular understandings of nature point in the opposite direction, illustrat­ing the way in which it is as one moves to thicker descriptions with greater in­terpretative depth that the possibility and actuality of shared conversation around values emerges. The project of engaging in more universal ethical re­flection is quite compatible with the project of uncovering interpretative depth. The general critical project of philosophy is enriched by engagement with the anthropological project.
  3,486 405 -
Finding Place in Nature: 'Intellectual' and Local Knowledge in a Spanish Natural Park
Katrin A Lund
April-June 2005, 3(2):371-387
This paper looks at how nature is conceptualised in different ways by different groups of people in order to problematise the way in which anthropology naturalises populations by 'rooting' them in various geographi­cal places. The ethnography is based on a fieldwork in a village located in the Natural Park of the Sierra Nevada and the Alpujarra, Spain. By locating the ethnographic discussion in a Linnaean system of natural classification, the aim is to show that how people place nature, and place themselves in nature, is depending on how they place themselves amongst others. Furthermore, how people place themselves amongst others, needs to be analysed in relation to how people move differently, and for different reasons, to and from a place as well as within a place in diverse spatio/temporal contexts.
  2,675 397 -
Conservation by Consent: A Large NGO View of Participatory Management
Nitin D Rai
April-June 2005, 3(2):540-542
  1,493 317 -