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Kate Pride Brown

Abstract

Why do some arid locations persist in having weak water conservation policies? And why do some wetter locales implement comparatively strong conservation requirements? Based upon 43 qualitative interviews with water stakeholders in four selected cities (Atlanta, Phoenix, San Antonio, Tampa), this article puts forward one contributing factor to explain this apparent contradiction: the variable “visibility” of stressed water resources. The material conditions of different water sources (e.g., groundwater, surface water) and geologies (i.e., during droughts or during flooding) provide variable opportunities to “see” water scarcity. The visual impacts of shrinking water resources can become a major motivating factor in the general public for increased water conservation. However, water supply is often physically invisible. In these circumstances, the image of water supply may be intentionally conjured in the public mind to produce similar concern. Assured, steady supply, on the other hand, can dampen the public will for strong conservation policy.

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Accounting for Loss in Fish Stocks

A Word on Life as Biological Asset

Jennifer E. Telesca

ABSTRACT

Why have sea creatures plummeted in size and number, if experts have at their disposal sophisticated techniques to count and predict them, whether tuna, cod, dolphin, or whale? This article conducts a literature review centered on a native category that dominates discourse in marine conservation—stock—by emphasizing the word’s double meaning as both asset and population. It illuminates how a word so commonplace enables the distancing metrics of numerical abstractions to be imposed on living beings for the production of biowealth. By tracking the rise of quantitative expertise, the reader comes to know stock as a referent long aligned with the sovereign preoccupation of managing wealth and society, culminating in the mathematical model recruited today as the principal tool of authority among technocratic elites. Under the prevailing conditions of valuation, the object of marine conservation has become not a fish as being but a biological asset as stock.

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Shubhi Sharma, Rachel Golden Kroner, Daniel Rinn, Camden Burd, Gregorio Ortiz, John Burton, Angus Lyall, Pierre du Plessis, Allison Koch, Yvan Schulz, Emily McKee, Michael Berman, and Peter C. Little

Open access

Eleanor Sterling, Tamara Ticktin, Tē Kipa Kepa Morgan, Georgina Cullman, Diana Alvira, Pelika Andrade, Nadia Bergamini, Erin Betley, Kate Burrows, Sophie Caillon, Joachim Claudet, Rachel Dacks, Pablo Eyzaguirre, Chris Filardi, Nadav Gazit, Christian Giardina, Stacy Jupiter, Kealohanuiopuna Kinney, Joe McCarter, Manuel Mejia, Kanoe Morishige, Jennifer Newell, Lihla Noori, John Parks, Pua’ala Pascua, Ashwin Ravikumar, Jamie Tanguay, Amanda Sigouin, Tina Stege, Mark Stege, and Alaka Wali

ABSTRACT

Measuring progress toward sustainability goals is a multifaceted task. International, regional, and national organizations and agencies seek to promote resilience and capacity for adaptation at local levels. However, their measurement systems may be poorly aligned with local contexts, cultures, and needs. Understanding how to build effective, culturally grounded measurement systems is a fundamental step toward supporting adaptive management and resilience in the face of environmental, social, and economic change. To identify patterns and inform future efforts, we review seven case studies and one framework regarding the development of culturally grounded indicator sets. Additionally, we explore ways to bridge locally relevant indicators and those of use at national and international levels. The process of identifying and setting criteria for appropriate indicators of resilience in social-ecological systems needs further documentation, discussion, and refinement, particularly regarding capturing feedbacks between biological and social-cultural elements of systems.

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Dan Brockington

ABSTRACT

Measuring and being measured are some of the fundamental aspects of our worlds. Without them, we cannot live in our environments or function as social beings. But how we measure, and are measured, and to what ends and purposes, matters a great deal. Measurement does not just record; it shapes, changes, and constitutes things. It is not merely descriptive. It is creative. This introduction to the special issue explores how these themes of measurement are played out in diverse settings, including counting fish stocks, migration, social resilience, local measures of sustainability, oil exploitation, forest conservation, calculating ecosystem services, and measuring heat. Collectively, they provide a better understanding of how crucial measurements are formulated, and how they are and can be contested.

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Pamela McElwee

ABSTRACT

Ecosystem services (ES) are increasingly used as the conceptual driver for conservation and development actions, largely following from the influential Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. Scholars skeptical of the neoliberal turn in conservation have critiqued the use of economic values for nature’s services. What has been less well understood and reviewed, however, is how concepts of ES are enacted by technologies of calculation, as well as how calculative practices move through networks and among stakeholders. This review traces how definitions and metrics of ES have evolved and how they are used, such as in biodiversity offsetting and wetland mitigation programs. Using the idea of the creation and deployment of calculative mechanisms, this article discusses how these processes proceed in different ES contexts, assesses what work has to happen ontologically to make ES commensurable and circulatable, and speculates on what the opportunities for future pathways other than commodification are.

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Natural Resources by Numbers

The Promise of “El uno por mil” in Ecuador’s Yasuní-ITT Oil Operations

Amelia Fiske

ABSTRACT

In 2013, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa announced the end of the Yasuní-ITT initiative. The initiative had proposed to combat climate change by not exploiting oil reserves in one section of the Yasuní National Park. Anticipating outcry, Correa promised that operations would affect less than one thousandth of the park, or “menos del uno por mil.” This article examines the role of numerical calculations in the governance of subterranean resources. Numbers do a particular kind of labor to rationalize the shift contained in the Yasuní-ITT initiative that rhetoric alone does not. Metrics such as el uno por mil constitute and translate between diverse realms of value. Yet, contrary to the assumption that numbers are derived from strictly technical, expert processes, I show how such metrics are fundamental to translations between incalculable matters of nature, the future, and the “good” when deployed in contests over the effects of oil on life.

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Parks, Proxies, and People

Ideology, Epistemology, and the Measurement of Human Population Growth on Protected Area Edges

David M. Hoffman

ABSTRACT

There is an extensive literature about growing human populations on protected area (PA) edges and their contribution to biodiversity threats. This article reviews the conservation literature’s engagements with the question of human migration and population growth on PA edges by reviewing: (1) the normative basis of conservation biology; (2) the development of conservation science in response; (3) conservationist engagements with PAs, migration, and population growth; (4) the engagement with George Wittemyer and colleagues (2008); and (5) the landscape of analyses and debates regarding PAs and their relationship to migration. The review finds that a strong biocentric position of conservation biology is evident and discusses the impacts that this position has on research, conclusions, and policies intended to cope with this growing issue.

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Temperature and Capital

Measuring the Future with Quantified Heat

Scott W. Schwartz

ABSTRACT

The quantification of human environments has a history—a relatively short history. This article explores how the notion of quantifiable reality has become naturalized through the privileging of predictive utility as the primary goal of knowledge production. This theme is examined via the invention and application of temperature—how it was sociomaterially constructed and how it is globally restructuring social organization today. Temperature does not exist pervasively throughout all space and time. Physicists may affirm that fluctuations in relative heat are ubiquitous, but as a measurement of these fluctuations, temperature only emerges through arrangements of political and environmental observations. What phenomena do populations deem worthy of observation? How do populations manipulate materials to make such observations? By tracing the origins of thermometry and investigating modern efforts to reconstruct and model ulterior temperatures, I illustrate that temperatures, like other measurements, are cultural artifacts pliable to sociopolitical efforts of control and domination.