[Guest post by DRJ]
A University of Texas philosopher and conservationist brings some common sense to his work:
“Sahotra Sarkar, who specializes in environmental ethics, and other scholars have been changing how environmental groups and businesses set aside land and parks. Last month, in the online edition of the journal Biological Conservation, he fleshed out what he called the “social ecology” model of folding local values into the decision-making process.
The Indonesian company, Medco, was planning to build a power plant and a wood pulp and paper mill in New Guinea. Conservation International was hoping to get some concessions for land preservation. Enter Sarkar, who urged that the conservation group and Medco take into account the needs of the people who live near the industrial sites.
“It might be obvious now, but traditionally nongovernment organizations, based in London, operated in the Third World and would not have done that,” he said.”
Conservationists have found that incorporating local concerns works better:
“The social ecology model, he and a co-author wrote in Biological Conservation, contrasts with the “fortress” model of conservation work, which excludes human habitation and use from parks and open space.
A fortress-model project to build tiger reserves in India, for example, failed in large part because the villagers who were expelled to create the parks then collaborated with poachers to decimate the tiger population, he said. In Peru, on the other hand, the World Wildlife Fund has worked with indigenous groups to protect lakes that are also important fishing areas.
He traces part of the difference between the models to a cultural gulf between a “stridently vocal group of Northern conservationists” and their counterparts in the global South. The northern conservationists “view humans as categorically distinct from the natural world,” while people in the South “view nature as a resource.”
That difference in how land is set aside, and the degree of local involvement, has important consequences, he writes.”
This sounds so obvious it’s tempting to say something snarky, but I’m just glad to see common sense may be coming back in vogue. Although I admit I enjoyed the “stridently vocal group of Northern conservationists” part.