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Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
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   2018| April-June  | Volume 16 | Issue 2  
    Online since April 11, 2018

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Under Pressure: Conceptualising Political Ecologies of Green Wars
Bram Buscher, Robert Fletcher
April-June 2018, 16(2):105-113
This article introduces the special issue on 'Political Ecologies of Green Wars' and the research papers comprising it. While state-authorised and state-directed forms of violence in support of conservation have been evident in many places for quite some time, the current scope, scale and rhetorical justification of the violent defence of biodiversity seem quite unprecedented in the history of global conservation. We, therefore, ask whether and how the term green wars may be appropriate to describe this new intensity of violence and the changes in environmental governance it signifies. In bringing together a number of important recent discussions around green grabbing, green militarisation/violence, green economy, neoliberal conservation and biopower, amongst others, the special issue emphasises the increasingly central role of environmental and conservation concerns within the global political economy as a whole. In the process, it also points towards an overarching conceptual framing for understanding these conjoined dynamics in terms of an 'intensification of pressure' precipitated by the combined yet uneven magnification and integration of power and capital within the world today. Consequently, we argue that the concept of green wars potentially heralds the new twenty- first century 'real-politik' of the centrality of violence and conflict both to the neoliberal political economy and to environmental conservation, and their integrated socio-ecological manifestations and effects.
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Not Seeing the Cattle for the Elephants: The Implications of Discursive Linkages between Boko Haram and Wildlife Poaching in Waza National Park, Cameroon
Alice Kelly Pennaz, Mouadjamou Ahmadou, Mark Moritz, Paul Scholte
April-June 2018, 16(2):125-135
The decline of wildlife in Central and West African border parks has been directly linked to Islamic terrorism in the region in media and government discourse. Using Waza National Park in the Far North Region of Cameroon as a case study, we show that wildlife declines in the park long preceded the appearance of Boko Haram, the extremist group best known for kidnapping over 200 girls in northern Nigeria. We also show that there is no evidence that Boko Haram are using wildlife products from the park to sustain their operations. Instead, the “poacher-as-terrorist” narrative obscures complex, historically embedded reasons for insecurity in northern Cameroon as well as massive losses of biodiversity in this region. The media and governments' focus on the “poacher-as-terrorist” narrative has important implications for the victims of Boko Haram, including mobile pastoralists. It is their cattle that are most likely a major source of sustenance and funding for the operations of Boko Haram. However, because these mobile pastoralist groups are “invisible” in the bush, their struggles remain ignored. We argue that the continued espousal of the “poacher-as-terrorist” narrative allows Boko Haram violence against mobile pastoralists to continue, and makes way for further environmental degradation in Cameroon's protected areas.
  5,443 850 -
License to Kill: Contesting the Legitimacy of Green Violence
Robert Fletcher
April-June 2018, 16(2):147-156
The predominant focus within the growing body of research addressing 'green violence' – that employed in the name of protecting nonhuman natures – has been the exercise of such violence by representatives of nation-state regimes. Largely overlooked thus far, therefore, is a remarkably similar discussion conducted among civil society environmental activists, who have long debated the legitimacy of employing analogous forms of violence in their own defense of 'nature.' Juxtaposing these two discussions, this article explores how green violence has been discussed and contested among state and non-state actors, respectively. At stake in this discussion is the essential question of when, and by whom, green violence can be legitimately exercised. This question, in turn, raises the related question of who can legitimately employ ‘biopower’ when both state and non-state actors commonly justify green violence with quite similar claims to be acting in defense of imperiled forms of nonhuman life. In addressing these questions, this analysis suggests that we may need to rethink how biopower is being mobilised in the contemporary world wherein the nation-state political order is increasingly challenged by manifold forces while environmental concerns have at the same time come to be seen as one of the principle security threats to states, their subjects, as well as life as a whole.
  5,347 819 -
From Biopower to Ontopower? Violent Responses to Wildlife Crime and the New Geographies of Conservation
Bram Buscher
April-June 2018, 16(2):157-169
Intensifying global dynamics of wildlife crime are rapidly reshaping conservation politics, practices and geographies. Most pronounced are the manifold violent responses to wildlife crime, including direct lethal action and increasing anticipatory action to prevent these crimes from happening in the first place. This paper reflects on these dynamics in relation to recent literature that employs Foucault's concept of biopower to understand the governance of increasingly precarious human and non-human life. Building on Brian Massumi's exposition of ontopower – an 'environmental power' that “alters the life environment's conditions of emergence” – I explore whether we are seeing a move from bio- to ontopower where the imperative is less the construction of systemic forms of governmentality to ensure life's ‘optimisation’ than on processually pre-empting incipient tendencies towards unknown but certain future threats to life. Phrased differently, ontopower focuses on how to prevent nature's destruction in the future through pre-emptive measures in the present. Drawing on empirical research on violent responses to rhino poaching in South Africa, the paper argues that we are seeing the uneven emergence of new geographies of conservation based on ontopower. It concludes by speculating whether conservation's insecurity is turning into its pre-emptive other by making (green) war necessary for non-human life's survival.
  4,848 777 -
Deploying Difference: Security Threat Narratives and State Displacement from Protected Areas
Elizabeth Lunstrum, Megan Ybarra
April-June 2018, 16(2):114-124
State actors are increasingly treating protected areas as sites of security threats and policing resident communities as though they are the cause of this insecurity. This is translating into community eviction from protected areas that is authorised by security concerns and logics and hence not merely conservation concerns. We ground this claim by drawing upon empirical work from two borderland conservation areas: Mozambique's Limpopo National Park (LNP) and Guatemala's Maya Biosphere Reserve (MBR). In both cases, we show how these security-provoked evictions are authorised by the mobilisation of interlocking axes of difference that articulate notions of territorial trespass with that of a racialised enemy. Rather than a new problem or phenomena, we show how these axes are rooted in prior histories of state actors rendering racialised subjects dangerous, Cold War histories in both cases and a longer colonial history with the LNP. We also show how standing behind these evictions is the nation-state and its practices of protected area territorialisation. From here, we illustrate how the rationale behind displacement from protected areas matters, as evictions become more difficult to contest once they are authorised by security considerations. The cases, however, differ in one key respect. While displacement from the LNP is an instance of conservation-induced displacement (CID), although one re-worked by security considerations, eviction from the MBR is motivated more centrally by security concerns yet takes advantage of protected area legislation. The study hence offers insight into a growing literature on conservation-security encounters and into different articulations of conservation, security, and displacement.
  4,388 958 -
The Conservation Ideological State Apparatus
Jared D Margulies
April-June 2018, 16(2):181-192
This article considers Louis Althusser's theory of the ideological state apparatuses (ISAs) for advancing political ecology scholarship on the functioning of the state in violent environments. I reflect on a series of events in which a state forest department in South India attempted to recast violent conflicts between themselves and local communities over access to natural resources and a protected area as a debate over human-wildlife conflicts. Through the example of conservation as ideology in Wayanad, Kerala, I show how the ISAs articulate the functioning of ideology within the state apparatuses in order for us to understand the larger mechanics of the state apparatus and the reproduction of the relations of production necessary for the reproduction of capitalism. Revisiting the ISAs as a theoretical framework for studies in political ecology and conservation is timely given the resurgence of militarised conservation tactics, the emancipatory aims of Althusser's theory, and political ecology's turn towards praxis.
  4,473 695 -
Slippery Violence in the REDD+ Forests of Central Kalimantan, Indonesia
Peter Howson
April-June 2018, 16(2):136-146
Due to increasing global demand for palm oil, coal, and timber, Indonesia has become the largest contributor of greenhouse gases from primary forest loss in the world. Carbon market mechanisms, like Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+), are being promoted by many elements of Indonesia's government as an effective policy response. The REDD+ programme is designed to enable the provision of financial compensations to protect and restore standing forests by making them more valuable than the timber they contain. However, the logic of REDD+ constructs people living in and around project sites as environmentally destructive and therefore in need of incentivisation to do otherwise. Local people are compensated for the 'opportunity costs' of not degrading forests. Within this frame ‘locals’—suffering from the malaise of dispossession—are Othered as illegal loggers, poachers, greedy miners or arsonists. In reality, REDD+ often facilitates the continuation of violence, legitimising an image of small-holders, rather than large international corporations, as the cause of forest degradation in Indonesia. Focusing on the Sungai Lamandau REDD+ project of Central Kalimantan, I discuss how, for some of Sungai Lamandau's landless farmers, REDD+ is accelerating the very violence and environmentally destructive behaviours it claims to discourage. Farmers are becoming embroiled in other ongoing processes, pushing them towards illicit livelihood strategies, sometimes with devastating outcomes.
  3,416 578 -
A coexistence of Paradigms: Understanding Human–environmental Relations of Fishers Involved in the Bycatch of Threatened Marine Species
Victoria Gonzalez Carman, Maria Carman
April-June 2018, 16(2):205-216
In this article, we study a fishing community and its relationship with non-human species, including threatened marine mammals and turtles incidentally captured by fishers. We focus on the interaction between this fishing community and a group of conservation experts who seek to protect these vulnerable species by proposing the testing of alternative fishing gear. This conservation practice, however, ignores the fishing community's worldview − which includes its relationship with animal species and the links and negotiations established with other stakeholders. Through an interdisciplinary ethnographic approach, we find that although fishers classify species according to their capacity to be exploited as a resource, they may also be willing to become strategic conservationists by negotiating with conservation experts to protect some of these species. The coexistence of strategic conservation and resource exploitation practices in this fishing community does not preclude the existence of an 'implicit communalism', in which resource exploitation is rooted in daily intimacy with various species. A comprehensive reconstruction of local perspectives and practices is a first step towards a democratic exchange between local and expert knowledge in pursuit of the conservation of biodiversity.
  3,307 406 -
Technology, Inclusivity and the Rogue: Bats and the War Against the 'Invisible Enemy'
James Robert Fairhead
April-June 2018, 16(2):170-180
Although tempting to envisage the emerging violence in conservation as either against nature or in defence of it, this paper argues that such violence is increasingly between 'the included' and ‘rogues’ in ways that transcend the nature : society binary. The paper traces how the emergence of these battle lines is associated with the digital information revolution that is producing discourses and practices of ‘inclusion’ that embrace social and natural worlds, whilst recasting a hitherto knowable and governable ‘excluded’ as more unknowable and threatening ‘rogues’. Accordingly, the paper then illustrates how the battle against the 'invisible enemy' of Ebola was fought not just against rogue viruses but against rogue bats, rogue deforesters and rogue patients, transcending any nature: human binary, and similarly that sustainable solutions are being sought in rearranging landscapes within an inclusive 'One Health' approach.
  3,051 368 -
Between Grassroots Collective Action and State Mandates: The Hybridity of Multi-Level Forest Associations in Mexico
Gustavo A Garcia-Lopez, Camille Antinori
April-June 2018, 16(2):193-204
Multi-level collective actions and institutions play an important role in natural resource governance and rural development; however, the origins and transformations of these institutions have only recently begun to receive systematic research attention. To address this gap, we trace and analyse the historical processes driving formation and change of Mexican inter-community forestry associations over time, drawing on survey data and in-depth case studies from two Mexican states, contextualised within the national and international political-economic landscapes over time. While we initially categorise whether an association is grassroots (‘bottoms-up’) or state-mandated (‘top-down’), the fifty-year historical review reveals a contested dynamic over political, economic and technical changes in multi-level commons governance. In this political-economic process, the line between self-organised and top-down is blurred, hybrid and continually evolving on multiple scales, driven by both cooperation and conflict across governance levels from the local to the global, and embedded in broader struggles over land, democratic institutions and market participation. Mexican forestry associations mediate between social movements; member needs such as political representation, economic cooperation and forestry services; conflicting political interest from a diversity of community and non-community actors including foresters, political party leaders and timber corporations; and state mandates and market forces. These findings fill a gap in institutional commons theory and practice, elucidating the political dynamics of polycentric and multi-level governance.
  2,902 378 -