Problematizing neoliberal biodiversity conservation: displaced and disobedient knowledges
Co-authored with Jim Igoe, this is a report of a workshop with the same title which we held in Washington DC in May 2008. This event brought together a global network of scholars, conservation and development practitioners, and community activists (recognizing that these are not mutually exclusive categories). The focus was our shared concern regarding the commodification and appropriation of the non-human world in the context of biodiversity conservation, and the ways in which local people, livelihoods and lifeworlds, and alternative nature values, are being displaced and transformed in the process. Members of this group have documented these processes in many different parts of the world, but have experienced significant obstacles to making our analysis part of mainstream conversations about biodiversity conservation.
The workshop was supported by the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, and the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) in London.
- We wish to disseminate and receive information, ideas, and opinions about the intersection of environmentalism and social justice in the context of global biodiversity conservation.
- Our ability to do so is significantly and systematically impeded by conditions and interests related to the ways in which biodiversity conservation currently is imagined and implemented.
- We think that the free dissemination and reception of information is not only a basic right, but also is crucial for the sustenance of healthy ecosystems.
- People are part of ecosystems, but arguably we are manifesting our relationships with global ecosystems in increasingly destructive ways, linked with rapid globalization processes and accompanying inequities in land and resource distribution, as well as the reduction of diversity in all spheres of organization (biological, cultural, linguistic).
- Our view is that significantly revised thought and practice are needed in order to adjust our relationships with the non-human world, involving all human beings as teachers and learners in the effort to affirm the indispensability of both diversity and democracy for planetary socioecological health.
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. (UN Declaration of Human Rights, article 19)
This workshop brought together a global network of scholars, applied practitioners, and community activists (recognizing that these are not mutually exclusive categories), who are concerned about the ways in which nature has been commodified and appropriated in the context of biodiversity conservation, and the ways in which local people and their livelihoods have been displaced and transformed in the process. Members of this group have documented these processes in many different parts of the world, but have experienced significant obstacles to making our analysis part of mainstream conversations about biodiversity conservation. We came together in order to more effectively conceptualize and communicate the global nature of the phenomena that we have researched, experienced and documented. The three-day workshop revolved around the experiential narratives of participants, structured according to key questions agreed upon prior to the event. From these narratives we identified common themes, as well as significant differences, and sought to identify variables that might account for these. We also worked together to think through the most effective avenues for highlighting these problems and considering solutions. These included strengthening existing networks of scholars, practitioners, activists, and local people who are concerned with the displacement effects of conservation policy and practice, as well as the creation of new ones. We also hope to build on the unique skills and perspectives of network members to explore solutions to environmental problems that are holistic, inclusive, equitable, and ecologically sound. A major element of this vision is a multifaceted publication and information-sharing strategy, including the creation of an interactive online forum to allow for freer and more inclusive exchanges of information and ideas. Our vision is that these networks and forums will inform and influence a convergence of biodiversity conservation and environmental justice in which equity and ecology are inextricably linked.