Friday, 30 January 2015

Neighborhood Environmentalism: protecting biodiversity ... ... and defining 'the environment'

The notion of 'Neighborhood Environmentalism' has already been considered in the context of the notion of 'democratic energy':
Futures Forum: "Allowing fracking companies to drill on private land without first requiring a landowner’s permission." or... "Neighborhood Environmentalism: Toward Democratic Energy"

This touches on the debate about how the idea of 'the environment' is constructed - and in whose interests this happens:

Following Michel Foucault, writing on ecogovernmentality focuses on how government agencies, in combination with producers of expert knowledge, construct “The Environment.” 
This construction is viewed both in terms of the creation of an object of knowledge and a sphere within which certain types of intervention and management are created and deployed to further the government’s larger aim of managing the lives of its constituents.

Ecogovernmentality - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Whilst it can get rather academic, here's something slightly more accessible:

Neighborhood Environmentalism: Protecting Biodiversity
 | June 1st, 2014
The environment, specifically climate change, is receiving some much deserved attention as of late. Discussion of climate change is healthy and necessary, but it seems the politico-media complex exclusively discusses climate, leaving other urgent crises to fall under the radar. 

One such crisis is Earth’s impending sixth mass extinction. We live in a time of precipitous biodiversity loss — on par with the extinction rate that ended the age of the dinosaurs. A complete tally of recent extinctions and imperiled species (along with causes) can be found at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) website – IUCNRedList.org.

Stuart Pimm of Duke University, a recognized expert in the field of conservation biology, has published a landmark study in the peer-reviewed journal Science. Pimm’s publication describes the current plight of flora and fauna around the planet. Pimm notes that species are disappearing at least 1,000 times faster than the natural background rate – ten times faster than ecologists previously believed. “We are on the verge of the sixth extinction,” Pimm said in a statement about his research. “Whether we avoid it or not will depend on our actions.”

There are a number of factors causing species decline. The major culprit, however, is not climate change — it’s habitat loss.

Over 50% of the human population now lives in cities, as populations expand, so too does urbanization. This creates an incredible challenge to species conservation as the total size of urban spaces in the United States now exceeds the total size of areas protected for conservation. It is important, then, for markets to develop that encourage biodiversity conservation.

Pimm is right: Whether or not we avoid a biodiversity crisis depends on our actions. It is time to embrace neighborhood environmentalism and reclaim the commons.

“Growth at any cost” economics, the dogma of neo-liberalism and government institutions, utilizes precious landscapes and resources needed for ecological subsistence. Even programs that seek mechanisms for conservation, such as the United Nation’s REDD (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation), inadvertently promote the total exploitation of natural areas, simply because regulation diverts resource extraction to unprotected land/seascapes. (note 1) 

Enclosure movements (acquisition of territories for the state or private capital) more often than not exploit natural landscapes. To the contrary, democratic management of natural areas has resulted in best sustainability practices.

The work of Nobel Prize recipient Elinor Ostrom demonstrates environmental protection increases with Common Pool Resource Institutions. (note 2) 

Arun Agrawal, in his work Environmentality, notes sustainable forest policy emerged in the Kumoan region of the Himalayas as a result of decentralized, democratically controlled resource management. In our cities, the establishment of urban wilderness areas popping up around the globe, from the labor of civic sector institutions and private citizens, are protecting large expanses of forest and crucial habitat from economic exploitation – my favorite example hails from the Scruffy City of Knoxville, Tennessee, where over 1,000 acres of forested habitat has been preserved. (note 3) 

There are many more examples of freed markets protecting wilderness and ecosystem services. This protection simultaneously provides ancillary benefits to all flora and fauna — including humans. Government institutions and concentrations of private capital are all too often hurdles to the implementation of policies that can ease the current biodiversity crisis. Neighborhood Power is the way of the future — conservation depends on it.

(note 1) [The tropical forest conservation plan, known as REDD, has the potential to significantly reduce deforestation and carbon dioxide emissions worldwide. But unless projects are carefully designed and monitored, the program could be undercut by shady dealings at all levels, from the forests to global carbon markets. Will REDD Preserve Forests Or Merely Provide a Fig Leaf? by Fred Pearce: Yale Environment 360]

(note 2) [The policy tools and processes for protecting common pool resources, such as fisheries, water, grazing lands, and forests, have been of interest to many policy scholars, particularly since the publication of Garrett Hardin’s 1968 article in Science outlining the “tragedy of the commons”.  In Hardin’s article, he foresaw the overuse and degradation of CPRs as a likely outcome of human use of these resources, particularly in light of the increasing demand for these resources under growing populations, unless policymakers intervene to regulate or privatize these resources.  
Over twenty years later, Elinor Ostrom’s seminal book Governing the Commons (1990) brought together evidence from long enduring, locally managed, common pool resource settings from around the world to show that Hardin’s assumptions were, in many cases, off-base.  In fact, many communities that use common pool resources have been able to avert the “tragedy of the commons” and find ways to effectively self-govern these resources without intervention from external authorities or privatizing the commons.  Common Pool Resource Theory | Buechner Institute for Governance | University of Colorado Denver]

(note 3) [Center for a Stateless Society » Managing the AnthropoceneEnvironmentality: Technologies of Government and the Making of Subjects New Ecologies for the Twenty-first Century: Amazon.co.uk: Arun Agrawal: BooksNeoliberal environmentality: Towards a poststructuralist political ecology of the conservation debate Fletcher R - Conservat Soc]

Center for a Stateless Society » Neighborhood Environmentalism: Protecting Biodiversity 

See also:
Futures Forum: Climate change: the great carbon offsetting scam
Futures Forum: Elinor Ostrom: sustainable development ... and the tragedy of commons
Futures Forum: Climate change: Entering the Anthropocene
Futures Forum: Karl Hess: Neighbourhood Power: The New Localism

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