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Three Roads to Sustainability - Considering Three Common Narratives in Conservation


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These slides were used in a lecture on giving an overview of what I see as the three dominant narratives in conservation today. It was strongly informed by my own experience working in global conservation among some of the larger eNGOs in Washington, DC, and - of course - remains a perspective in progress. It was delivered as part of an undergraduate study abroad course considering wildlife conservation in Madagascar.

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Three Roads to Sustainability - Considering Three Common Narratives in Conservation

  1. 1. Overview 1. The Ideal vs. the Real 2. A Sea Monster to the Rescue 3. All We Need is an (Invisible) Hand 4. Trust Me, We Can Do This Together 5. Traversing the Conservation Reality
  2. 2. The Ideal vs. the Real
  3. 3. Theories, Frameworks & Models  Three tools in social science  Theory (explanatory/predictive)  Frameworks (descriptive)  Models (normative)  Today we’ll focus on the types of models used in conservation  At it’s most basic, there are three narratives about how we achieve sustainability
  4. 4. Three Types of Models  These three narratives emphasize:  Coercion  Incentives  Cooperation  I term these narratives:  “A Sea Monster to the Rescue”  “All We Need is an (Invisible) Hand”  “Trust Me, We Can Do This”
  5. 5. A Sea Monster to the Rescue
  6. 6. Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, 1651
  7. 7. The State as Sovereign  Basic argument:  State of nature is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”  To overcome, we need an absolute sovereign  Today, the leviathan is not a king, but the state  This argument can be applied to conservation
  8. 8. Modern Tragedies  Garrett Hardin. 1968. “The Tragedy of the Commons”. Science  Individually rational, collectively irrational  Commons: fish, forests, freshwater, etc.  Conclusion  Free access & unrestricted demand for a finite resource ultimately reduces the resource through over-exploitation
  9. 9. Hardin’s Solutions  Hardin suggested two possible solutions:  Strong state intervention – coercive force limits exploitation  Privatization – gives incentive to enforce sustainable use
  10. 10. A Coercion Function
  11. 11. Possible Examples  Yellowstone National Park, est. 1872  Endangered Species Act of 1973  Fuel Economy Standards, first in place in 1978
  12. 12. All We Need is an (Invisible) Hand
  13. 13. Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations, 1776
  14. 14. The Market Produces the Best Outcomes  Basic argument:  “by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is…led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention.”  Limit the role of government to administration of justice and provision of public goods  This argument can be applied to conservation
  15. 15. Free Market Environmentalism  Terry Anderson & Donald Leal, 1991  Focus on:  Tort law  Property Rights  Market incentives  The state is often the problem  Fuel subsidies  Free access to national parks  Lack of property rights
  16. 16. Possible Examples  High Efficiency Light Bulbs  Erin Brockovich Pacific Gas & Electric Case  North Pacific Halibut, catch shares in 90s
  17. 17. Trust Me, We Can Do This Together
  18. 18. Elinor Ostrom, 1990
  19. 19. Modern Origins?  Recent scholars have noted that sometimes individuals are able to cooperate and overcome the tragedy  This has led to the rise of modern models of conservation based on “cooperation”  It could perhaps be argued that a philosophical precursor can be found in both socialist and religious thought Marx, 1867
  20. 20. An Institutional Theorist  Elinor Ostrom (1933-2012)  2009 Nobel Prize in Economics, shared with Oliver E. Williamson  Indiana University and Arizona State University  Founded the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis at IU
  21. 21. Common Pool Resources  Ostrom’s Law: A resource arrangement that works in practice can work in theory.  Most famous work is on how communities are able to create their own solutions to manage common pool resources for long time periods Private Goods (food, clothing, cars) Common-pool Resources (fish stocks, timber, coal) Club Goods (golf course, satellite TV) Public Goods (roads, air, national security) Excludable/Non-excludable* Rivalrous / . Non-rivalrous
  22. 22. Example: Alanya, Turkey
  23. 23. Highly Sophisticated Community- Solution  Alanya, Turkey  100 local fishers using 3-person boats  Half members of fishing cooperative  Set up rules  Every September, list of eligible fishers is prepared  Fishing area divided into zones  Fishers assigned zones by lots for Sept. to May period  Sept. to Jan., each fisher moves each day to the next easterly location, after Jan., switch to moving westward
  24. 24. Eight Principles for Cooperative Solutions  P1: Clearly defined boundaries.  P2: Rules adapted to local social and biological conditions.  P3: Collective choice arrangements.  P4: Accountable monitoring.  P5: Graduated sanctions.  P6: Provide accessible, lost cost means for dispute resolution.  P7: Recognition of rights to organize.  P8: Nested systems.
  25. 25. Traversing the Conservation Reality
  26. 26. Conservation is Not “Either/Or”  In practice, we see a mix of these three models  Which model dominates? Consider what matters most:  Coercion  Incentives  Cooperation  For example:  Fisheries conservation often requires restructuring property rights (incentives), but which are enforced by the state (coercion), and typically cannot be set up without fishermen’s support (cooperation)
  27. 27. Conserving Madagascar  Is any model more popular?  Scales (2014) argues that there is a “fortress conservation policy  Establishment of protected areas has led to severe restrictions on natural resource use and the disruption of livelihoods, property systems and cultural values  Horning (2012) notes the ineffectiveness of the the state, the “tame leviathan”
  28. 28. Conserving Madagascar (cont.)  Is another model likely to be more successful?  Market Incentives?  Tourism-led conservation  But geographically limited: Four national parks (Andasibe-Mantadia, Isalo, Ranomafana, Montagne d’Ambre) and one special reserve (Ankarana) attracted over 88% of the visitors between 1992 and 2000.  Little employment generation  Eco-labeling for fish
  29. 29. Conserving Madagascar (cont.)  Community Cooperation  Co-management of nature reserves  Reserves mainly limit access to natural resources  Can Malagasy and conservation biologists agree?  Concessions for fisheries  Blue Ventures suggests benefits are possible  Horning (2012) notes “some communities are conserving forests successfully while others are not”
  30. 30. Questions? Thoughts?