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Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
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   2014| July-September  | Volume 12 | Issue 3  
    Online since November 20, 2014

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Limits to Knowledge: Indigenous Peoples, NGOs, and the Moral Economy in the Eastern Amazon of Brazil
Janet Chernela, Laura Zanotti
July-September 2014, 12(3):306-317
Despite widespread recognition of the importance of community-conservation partnerships, problems continue to emerge. In this paper we examine one such interaction to propose that outside organisations have wrongly associated the delimitations of the habitational space with the extent of community allegiances and moral economies. Such oversights can lead to project withdrawal, as they did in one case of an ecotourism proposal among the indigenous Kayapσ of the southeastern Amazon. The case study points to the challenges in the processes of partnering with local villages where histories of fissioning and factioning contain within them their own processual relations and moral obligations. These models, by which people group themselves into communities of loyalty, affectivity, and belonging, may be elusive to outsiders and account for many challenges in local-international collaborations. Western planners are often unprepared for the long reach of relationships relevant to project planning and benefit sharing. We suggest that in order to move forward with effective multi-participant community-based projects, project planners should take into account supra-spatial, and dynamic, moral economies.
  6,034 737 1
What is 'Successful Development' in Conservation and Development Projects? Insights from Two Nicaraguan Case Studies
Sandra K Znajda
July-September 2014, 12(3):318-328
The lack of clear indications of success in integrated conservation and development projects has resulted in strong criticisms of these projects, and a call for the return to conservation activities that exclude local communities. Impeding this discussion is the lack of clarity around how project success is defined and measured in conservation and development projects, especially in terms of development goals. This study involved an in-depth exploration of two agroforestry-focused conservation and development projects in Nicaragua to provide insights into how success in reaching development goals is interpreted in such projects. In both projects, development was equated with increased household income, in contrast to more contemporary definitions that include aspects such as self-respect and social integration. Both projects in turn relied on income as a measure of development success, which ultimately lessened attention to impacts not easily measured quantitatively as well as participant perspectives on desired goals. The paper concludes with a discussion of implications for conservation practitioners; specifically the need for better alignment of project goals with contemporary explanations of development, and a need to move beyond primarily numerical indicators to measure change through an interdisciplinary approach in order to have a more comprehensive understanding of project impacts.
  5,259 621 1
Introduction: Moving Beyond the 'Rational Actor' in Environmental Governance and Conservation
Nicole D Peterson, Cindy Isenhour
July-September 2014, 12(3):229-232
In this brief introduction, we examine the themes and issues that link the three papers in this special section. In each case, neoliberal conservation practices appear to be predicated on a certain kind of individual subject with certain kinds of motives and behaviours-the rational actor. Taken together, these three papers challenge three assumptions of rational actor models, including that individuals are self-interested and attempt to maximise their own benefits, that they only respond to economic incentives, and that economic markets are free, mutual, and rational. Together these articles promote greater attention to how individuals are conceptualised in conservation efforts, and suggest alternative ways to think through conservation projects.
  4,529 816 -
From Community Conservation to the Lone (Forest) Ranger: Accumulation by Conservation in a Mexican Forest
Molly Doane
July-September 2014, 12(3):233-244
This paper explores the paradigm shift from 1990s models of community conservation that encoded environmentalist praxis within legal and cadastral frameworks, to recent attempts to encode environmentalist principles and goals within individual practice. Using the case of Chimalapas, Mexico, I look at how community-based conservation was abandoned after being deemed 'too political' to implement, and how new models of conservation not dependent on community consent emerged. Environmental services models of conservation pay individuals for forest ranger services, for reforestation, and for access to waterways and for water use. These models commodify land and labor in new ways, and join carbon markets as an important new avenue for what I call "accumulation by conservation." They also institutionalise conservation practices designed for private property regimes, despite the fact that the world's well-preserved forests are located principally on indigenous, communally-organised territories.
  4,329 638 -
The 'Adat' institution and the Management of Grand Forest 'Herman Yohannes' in Indonesian Timor: The Role of Design Principles for Sustainable Management of Common Pool Resources
Jacko A van Ast, Anindya Widaryati, Mansee Bal
July-September 2014, 12(3):294-305
Local success stories of sustainable forest management can inspire scientists and decision-makers. This article analyses the traditional 'Adat' institution that plays a role in the management of Grand Forest Park 'Herman Yohannes', in the Western part of Timor where the Adat forest management regulation has been formally restored. The original set of design principles for sustainable management of common pool resources of Elinor Ostrom (1990) has been used in this study as an analytical framework for understanding the role of the Adat institution in respect to the forest. In the park, the local community applies Adat for protection and management of the forest that has been its home for centuries. It appears that Ostrom's design principles can be identified in the current Adat institution and play a role in the sustainable management of the forest. Although many other variables can lead to success or failure of institutions, the original (internal) design principles are still valuable as a practical tool for building institutions that are - under certain conditions - able to sustain common pool resources. The findings confirm the importance of traditional institutions in successful forest management. The study recommends that decision-makers take into account existing traditional management systems that have shown long term functionality.
  4,500 459 -
Trading Fat for Forests: On Palm Oil, Tropical Forest Conservation, and Rational Consumption
Cindy Isenhour
July-September 2014, 12(3):257-267
The longstanding butter vs margarine debate has recently become more complex as the links between margarine, industrial palm oil plantations, and tropical deforestation are made increasingly clear. Yet despite calls for consumers to get informed and take responsibility for tropical deforestation by boycotting margarine or purchasing buttery spreads made with sustainably-sourced palm oil, research in multiple contexts demonstrates that even the most aware, engaged, and rational consumers run into significant barriers when trying to reduce their environmental impacts. This paper supplements important critiques of neoliberal conservation at the site of extraction or intended conservation (Carrier and West 2009; Igoe and Brockington 2009; Bόscher et al. 2012), with empirical research from the other end of the commodity chain. It argues that programs which place faith in the ability of rational consumers to influence conservation outcomes through their choices on the market, neglect significant structural constraints and overestimate the efficacy of market choices. While careful to recognise the importance of civic pressure for policy legitimacy, this article also contributes to a special section on rational actors, calling into question the dominant ideology of free and rational choice that undergirds so many market-based conservation programs.
  4,284 671 -
Breaking the Bounds of Rationality: Values, Relationships, and Decision-making in Mexican Fishing Communities
Nicole D Peterson
July-September 2014, 12(3):245-256
In fishing communities in Baja California Sur, Mexico, fisheries management is heavily influenced by models of individual economic rationality held by biologists and others involved in management, in which fishermen 'choose' to overfish because they are motivated by selfish individual rationality. Yet there is much that is neglected by these models, including the pressures of economic markets, family and community expectations, and cultural and personal value systems. Actual decisions about fishing and resource management rarely match the expectations of classical or neoliberal economic models of individual behaviour. I argue here that rational choice theory is a historically and culturally constructed discourse that becomes a taken-for-granted lens for viewing behaviour around the world. The effects of this discourse can be seen in the policies that are derived from them, as shown through this case study.
  4,310 583 -
Death by 1,000 Cuts: Road Politics at Sumatra's Kerinci Seblat National Park
Keith Bettinger
July-September 2014, 12(3):280-293
This paper examines how decentralisation reforms have led to an increase in road proposals in the districts around Sumatra's Kerinci Seblat National Park (KSNP). Roads through KSNP, which is still under the authority of the central government, are illegal, but the newly empowered districts argue that KSNP's existence is an unfair obstacle to regional economic development, and that the roads would aid in improving the local economies. The article examines Sumatra's extractive economy in a historical context, arguing that past economic patterns have helped in shaping the conflicts over access to resources in KSNP. District elites are attempting to maximise their access to, and benefits from, natural resources by using a variety of strategies to push for the construction of roads through KSNP; these strategies include the discursive construction of a new district geographic identity, the use of formal powers to encourage informal and illegal activities, and the formation of ad-hoc coalitions across scales. Using three case studies, I describe how the road proposals illustrate the different manifestations of centre/district struggles to gain control over, and access to, natural resources.
  4,353 438 -
Orchestrating Consent: Post-politics and Intensification of Nature TM Inc. at the 2012 World Conservation Congress
Robert Fletcher
July-September 2014, 12(3):329-342
This article reports on the results of a collaborative event ethnography (CEE) conducted at the 2012 World Conservation Congress (WCC) on Jeju Island, South Korea. The WCC is organised every four years by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which bills the Congress as the world's most important conservation forum. Hence, analysis of the event illuminates current and future trends in the global conservation movement. This analysis builds on a previous study conducted at the 2008 WCC in Barcelona, Spain, which provides something of a baseline for assessing changes in conservation policy in the intervening period. I contend that one of the most salient trends at the 2012 WCC was a dramatic increase in emphasis on market-based mechanisms and corporate partnerships, elements of a growing global pattern that has been called 'neoliberal conservation' or 'Nature TM Inc.', on the part of IUCN leadership and its major partners, particularly the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). While this agenda remains actively contested by elements of the IUCN's membership, little of this contestation was reflected in the Congress's public spaces. I therefore describe the WCC as an effort to 'orchestrate' the appearance of general consent around a neoliberal agenda-a dynamic that I characterise, following recent theorisation, as 'post-political'-by means of a variety of strategies, including staging consensus, synchronising discourse, expanding alliances, disciplining dissent, appropriating a 'radical' agenda, and 'cynical' reasoning.
  4,024 597 -
Patronage, Contextual Flexibility, and Organisational Innovation in Lebanese Protected Areas Management
Mads Solberg
July-September 2014, 12(3):268-279
The Lebanese Shouf Biosphere Reserve (SBR) counts among the most successful Middle Eastern conservation projects today. This article describes the evolution and contemporary management of conservation in Shouf. Using SBR as the empirical foci it argues that mobilisation of customary political hierarchies to secure environmental protection is not bound to impede conservation agendas as suggested by Kingston (2001), but rather provided the SBR with managerial flexibility under a weak state. The case study shows how new environmental agendas articulated with traditional political regimes in building novel, stable institutions. From these emerged contextually flexible solutions for mediating resources and negotiating nature. The Shouf's particular clientelist political structure gave rise to networks simultaneously civic and part of the Lebanese state. Explaining the apparent stability of conservation practice in Shouf requires shifting analytical frames away from polarised debates either for or against the roles of state, civil society, and patronage in conservation.
  3,595 326 -