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Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
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  Citation statistics : Table of Contents
   2014| October-December  | Volume 12 | Issue 4  
    Online since April 21, 2015

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Assessing the Relationship Between Human Well-being and Ecosystem Services: A Review of Frameworks
Matthew Agarwala, Giles Atkinson, Benjamin Palmer Fry, Katherine Homewood, Susana Mourato, J Marcus Rowcliffe, Graham Wallace, EJ Milner-Gulland
October-December 2014, 12(4):437-449
Focusing on the most impoverished populations, we critically review and synthesise key themes from dominant frameworks for assessing the relationship between well-being and ecosystem services in developing countries. This requires a differentiated approach to conceptualising well-being that appropriately reflects the perspectives of the poorest-those most directly dependent on ecosystem services, and their vulnerability to external and policy-driven environmental change. The frameworks analysed draw upon environmental sciences, economics, psychology, sociology, and anthropology, and were selected on the basis of their demonstrated or potential ability to illustrate the relationship between environmental change and human well-being, as well as their prevalence in real world applications. Thus, the synthesis offered here is informed by the various theoretical, methodological, and hermeneutical contributions from each field to the notion of well-being. The review highlights several key dimensions that should be considered by those interested in understanding and assessing the impact of environmental change on the well-being of the world's poorest people: the importance of interdisciplinary consideration of well-being, the need for frameworks that integrate subjective and objective aspects of well-being, and the central importance of context and relational aspects of well-being. The review is of particular interest to those engaged in the post-2015 development agenda.
  2 10,397 1,573
Wild Commodities and Environmental Governance: Transforming Lives and Markets in China and Japan
Michael Hathaway
October-December 2014, 12(4):398-407
This paper explores the relationship between forms of environmental governance and a transnational commodity chain for a wild mushroom that is picked in China and shipped to Japan. I argue that unlike some portrayals of environmental governance that largely assume a unified system working towards similar goals, governance comes from a number of sources and exhibits a range of forms, which at times overlap and contradict each other. In particular, this paper reflects on notions of commodification that are often argued to be part of neoliberal environmental governance. I show that diverse forms of environmental governance are shaping the texture of commodity chains, but not always working towards the overall increase in commodification. For example, in the last decade, the matsutake economy in China has been strongly influenced by several forms of environmental governance, such as a large-scale logging ban, the declaration of the matsutake as an endangered species, and its scrutiny in Japan as a potential object of contamination. I suggest that each of these forms of governance shapes the conditions of possibility and inflects the dynamics of this chain in different ways.
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Hidden Alliances: Rethinking Environmentality and the Politics of Knowledge in Thailand's Campaign for Community Forestry
Tim Forsyth, Andrew Walker
October-December 2014, 12(4):408-417
This paper provides a counterpoint to recent discussions of 'eco-governmentality' or 'environmentality,' which analyse how states use knowledge to regulate citizens and make problems governable. Adopting the concept of co-production from Science and Technology Studies (STS), this paper argues that well-known approaches to environmentality fail to acknowledge how both state and citizens can both actively participate in reifying authoritative expertise about environmental problems; and that this expertise can be based on shared visions of social order, which also exclude alternative perspectives about environmental management. The paper illustrates this debate with the history of legislation and social movements about community forestry in Thailand, where different state agencies and non-governmental organisations have disagreed about policies, but also demonstrated hidden alliances that reify and legitimise statements about the hydraulic functions of forests that exclude long-standing scientific research or alternative options for watershed management. The paper argues that political debates about community forestry should therefore pay more attention to how political opponents agree-and the social groups and policy options that are excluded from these agreements-rather than only analyse how one party might have power over another.
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Through the Technology Lens: The Expansion of Rubber and its Implications in Montane Mainland Southeast Asia
Jefferson Fox
October-December 2014, 12(4):418-424
Natural latex from the rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis) is a hot commodity, with consumption increasing worldwide at an average rate of 5.8% per year since 1900. The vast majority of the world's rubber supply has historically come from the wet-humid tropics of Southeast Asia, but researchers in China have successfully developed new hybrids that grow well in areas with cooler temperatures and a distinct dry season. Today, investors are promoting rubber plantations in non-traditional rubber growing areas of Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, northeast Thailand, and northwest Vietnam. By critically assessing the impacts of this expansion of rubber and clarifying the relationship between tools and technologies, the paper suggests that the widespread adoption of rubber as a technology leads to loss of natural and agricultural biodiversity; greater use of surface and groundwater supplies; increased use of pesticides, fertilisers, and other chemicals; higher exposure to market booms and busts for smallholders and investors; and for some farmers, the loss of their land to industrial plantations on which they may become labourers. The paper argues that if state authorities recognise the double-edged nature of rubber as a technology, they can act to try to limit its damaging effects through polices that recognise secure tenure and encourage small-scale, diversified agroforestry systems.
  - 3,440 346
Thai Forest Debates and the Unequal Appropriation of Spatial Knowledge Tools
Jean-Philippe Leblond
October-December 2014, 12(4):425-436
The illegal occupation of legal forest land has been at the centre of prolonged and often violent conflicts in Thailand. Since 1990, forest debates have been characterised by an intense polarisation between a conservation-oriented perspective (called 'dark green') and a counter perspective (called 'light green') supporting both the rights and interests of forest occupants as well as forest conservation. Cartographic and remote sensing tools have come to play an immense role in this debate. However, their use has been mostly concentrated in the hands of forest authorities and other dark green actors. Through an analysis of knowledge claims made by the two coalitions, I discuss how the low involvement of light green groups with spatial information tools contributed to their uncritical acceptance of problematic dark green truth claims of the environmental efficacy of conservation measures and the non-existence of recent positive forest cover change. In light of the emergence of multiple claims of 'forest transitions' in developing countries and the recent push towards the establishment of schemes that financially reward reforestation and avoided deforestation, light green groups and, by extension, sympathetic political ecologists, should carefully analyse the implications of their incomplete involvement with cartographic and remote sensing tools.
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Introduction: New Frontiers of Ecological Knowledge: Co-producing Knowledge and Governance in Asia
Shubhra Gururani, Peter Vandergeest
October-December 2014, 12(4):343-351
This essay makes a case for centering the questions of ecological knowledge in order to understand how environmental governance and resource access are being remade in the frontier ecologies of Asia. These frontiers, consisting of the so-called uplands and coastal zones, are increasingly subject to new waves of extractive and conservation activities, prompted in part by rising values attached to these ecologies by new actors and actor coalitions. Drawing on recent writings in science and technology studies, we examine the coproduction (Jasanoff 2004) of ecological knowledge and governance at this conjuncture of neoliberal interventions, land grabs, and climate change. We outline the complex ways through which the involvement of new actors, new technologies, and practices of boundary work, territorialisation, scale-making, and expertise transform the dynamics of the coproduction of knowledge and governance. Drawing on long term field research in Asia, the articles in this special section show that resident peoples are often marginalised from the production and circulation of ecological knowledge, and thus from environmental governance. While attentive to the entry of new actors and to the shifts in relations of authority, control, and decision-making, the papers also present examples of how this marginalisation can be challenged, by highlighting the limits of boundary-work and expertise in such frontier ecologies.
  - 3,782 9,133
Ecological Knowledge and the Making of Plantation Concession Territories in Southern Laos
Keith Barney
October-December 2014, 12(4):352-363
This paper examines how new forms of ecological knowledge are produced and mobilised through a sustainability-oriented, commercial tree plantation project in Lao PDR. As Gavin Bridge has noted, the establishment of primary resource sector projects are often not simply based upon a discursive emptying and erasure of local social and environmental histories. More nuanced forms of selective re-encoding, and performance can occur, incorporating what Maureen Sioh has called a "reconfiguration and imaginative recuperation of the physical landscape." In this case study, a commercial forestry company in Laos pays close attention to community environmental livelihood practices and local poverty indicators, and to the material remainders of the Second Indochina War embedded in the landscape. I argue that the production and circulation of new ecological knowledge through this project, and the interventions of new knowledge-actors in this area of the former Ho Chi Minh Trail zone of southern Laos, establishes a moral theatre of environmental sustainability and national development. The inscription and dissemination of new ecological and local knowledges can be understood as related to particular development-expert subjectivities in Laos. It is also connected to a competitive strategy employed by this company to gain access to concession land, within the broader context of non-scripted regulation and contested governance in Laos's plantation sector.
  - 3,607 1,976
From Regulation to Management and Back Again: Exploring Governance Shifts in India's Coastal Zone
Aparna Sundar
October-December 2014, 12(4):364-375
Recent struggles over coastal zone policy in India make it a fertile site within which to map the actors, institutions, and knowledges involved in contemporary ecological governance. In 2007, the government drafted a coastal zone policy that marked a shift from the previous regulation approach based on hard boundaries and prohibitions, to a management framework using Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) studies and new scientific technologies to draw up flexible localised plans. The new policy suffered a reversal, however, when a concerted civil society campaign of opposition forced its withdrawal and a return to the earlier regulatory approach, albeit with numerous modifications. This paper argues that the power of the campaign was not just political, but also informational. It traces the multiple and intersecting trajectories through which knowledges are developed, transmitted, and employed. In particular, what emerges is the role of an important 'straddling' or 'interface' layer of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and technical 'experts,' and the role of new information technologies and technologies of governance in enabling a cross-cutting circulation of knowledges. Interests, actors, and knowledges/technologies do not always map neatly on to each other, challenging binaries such as 'traditional' and 'modern,' or 'local' and 'global,' and rendering unpredictable the outcome of contestations over policy and governance.
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Ecological Governance of Rubber in Xishuangbanna, China
Janet C Sturgeon, Nicholas K Menzies, Noah Schillo
October-December 2014, 12(4):376-385
In recent years, the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanic Garden (XTBG) and the Xishuangbanna prefecture government have woken up to the environmental threat that extensive monoculture rubber cultivation poses in this tropical site in southern Yunnan. In response, XTBG has become a centre of knowledge production on how to restore some ethnic minority farmers' rubber fields to natural forest. As is common globally, the plan relies on mainstream ecology and leaves out farmers' experience and opinions. Curiously, in the 1980s and 1990s XTBG was a centre of human ecology research on farmers' knowledge about managing ecosystems and protecting biodiversity. This paper traces the transformation in the values, actors, institutional configurations, and epistemic communities that enabled farmers' experiences to be central to knowledge production and inscription across surrounding landscapes in the 1980s and 1990s, only to be disparaged and ignored in the production of knowledge and landscapes in the 2000s. Farmers who once taught XTBG scientists the names of species and how to survive on them during the Cultural Revolution are now excluded from determining how to restore those same species to the hills around them. Our analysis suggests possible pathways for ecological knowledge to be generated as well as lost.
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Making Governance "Good": The Production of Scale in the Environmental Impact Assessment and Governance of the Salween River
Vanessa Lamb
October-December 2014, 12(4):386-397
Environmental impact assessments (EIAs) are generally considered an important component of formal decision-making processes about development, serving to ensure that a project's environmental impacts are considered in decisions about whether and how it will proceed. Scale is an important part of the narrative built into the assessment. Building on a rich literature at the intersection of human geography and political ecology, I focus on the way that scale is remade through the environmental impact assessment process for the Hatgyi hydroelectric dam proposed on the Salween River. Proposed near the stretch of the river that makes up the Thai-Burma border, the scales of governance for this cross-border project challenge assumed definitions of 'local' impacts for 'national' decision-making. By illustrating how scale-making is accomplished through producing and mobilising ecological knowledge, I illustrate how the scale of the local and the nation are at stake in these projects.
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