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Contact with Nature as Essential to the Human Experience

Reflections on Pandemic Confinement

Alan E. Kazdin and Pablo Vidal-González

Abstract

Human contact with nature is more important than ever before considering the global confinement brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, the increased urbanization of society, and increased rates of mental disorders and threats to human well-being. This article conveys the importance of contact with nature from three perspectives: historical, sociocultural, and scientific. These perspectives convey the many ways in which contact with nature is essential to human life, the multiple ways in which this is expressed, and the broad range of benefits this has. The case for preserving the natural environment continues to be made in light of the dangers of climate change, the deleterious effects of pollution, and the importance of habitats. We add to the case by underscoring how human well-being has depended on contact with natural environments and how the need for this contact is more salient now than ever before.

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Ștefan Dorondel, Stelu Şerban, and Marian Tudor

Abstract

This article tells the story of possibly the first ecological restoration project in the postsocialist world (1994), which is an example of a broader set of ecological restorations carried out in Eastern Europe. By exploring the two intertwined processes of the ecological restoration of an island in the Danube Delta and the advancement of neoliberal economic ideas through land reform, decollectivization, and land privatization, we contribute to the understanding of ecological restoration in societies in turmoil. We engage a social sciences perspective in order to show the entanglement between ecological restoration processes and institutions, political arrangements, and various forms of land tenure. This theoretical perspective also shows a model all too often present in ecological restoration projects: a proclivity for adopting a neoliberal approach toward administrating natural resources at the expense of local ecological knowledge and the local administration of natural resources.

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Narratives of Socioecological Transition

The Case of the Transition Network in Portugal

Vera Ferreira and António Carvalho

Abstract

This article explores narratives and characteristics of sociological transitions displayed by members of the Transition Network (TN) in Portugal. It is informed by scholarly work on grassroots innovations, sociological transition narratives, and environmental engagement in Portugal. It furthers this research in three ways: (1) it analyzes an original case study—the Portuguese TN; (2) it identifies and defines the various socioecological narratives conveyed by its participants; and (3) it interprets the TN's sociopolitical appeal as a grassroots innovation in the context of environmental mobilization in Portugal. Drawing on 20 semistructured interviews with current and former members of the Portuguese TN, three narratives of sociological transition were identified—utopianism, inevitability, and pessimism—as well as seven characteristics that motivated interviewees’ engagement with the TN.

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Sustainability Metamorphosis

An Inconvenient Change

Erland Mårald and Janina Priebe

Abstract

The institutionalization of sustainability agendas on the local and global levels has largely failed to deliver the promised change. In this essay, we develop the idea of sustainability metamorphosis as a way to break with the pathological paradigm of sustainable development that weakens society's capacity to transform in the face of global crises. Sustainability metamorphosis, in our understanding, draws on the Bakthian perspective of carnivalization and dialogical truth. In this sense, sustainability metamorphosis is an outlook on change in society and a source of strategies for long-term societal change. Our understanding of metamorphosis is inspired by the historical and literary understandings that saw ungraspable forces, acting upon both inner and outer worlds, and suspended hierarchies as the sources of necessary but inconvenient change.

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Transition as Cultural Revitalization

Exploring Social Motives for Environmental Movement Participation

Anna J. Willow

Abstract

This article explores the Transition movement for climate change resilience as a cultural revitalization movement that is unfolding in response to the unique problems and prospects of the Anthropocene era. Drawing on ethnographic research, I suggest that personal well-being and community cohesion are essential motives for environmental movement participation. As Transition participants work to generate more satisfying cultural options, they relieve existential angst, reclaim the possibility of a positive future, create a safe space for radical resistance, and engender a simultaneously local and global sense of community. Ultimately, I argue that embracing environmental and (inter)personal action as both complementary and inextricably intertwined is essential if we are to catalyze the broad behavioral changes needed to evade catastrophic climate change and socioecological collapse.

Open access

Fernando Antonio Ignacio González, Maria Emma Santos, and Silvia London

Abstract

This article analyses the recent evolution of territorial disparities in Argentina, measured by a Multidimensional Poverty Index, by carrying out a formal convergence analysis between agglomerates. In particular, the existence of absolute β-convergence and σ-convergence is tested. The information comes from the microdata of the Permanent Household Survey. The results suggest that, although an end-to-end analysis of the period shows a decrease in poverty accompanied by a reduction in territorial disparities between the main urban agglomerates in Argentina, when disaggregating by subperiods, it is evident that in periods of economic growth (essentially from 2003 to 2009), territorial disparities increased. Conversely, in periods of stagnation, these disparities decrease.

Resumen

Este articulo analiza la evolución reciente de las disparidades territoriales en Argentina, medida por un Índice de Pobreza Multidimensional, mediante un análisis formal de convergencia entre aglomerados. En particular, se testea la existencia de convergencia-β absoluta y convergencia-σ. La información proviene de los microdatos de la Encuesta Permanente de Hogares. Los resultados sugieren que, si bien en un análisis punta-a-punta del período se observa una reducción de la pobreza acompañada de una reducción de las disparidades territoriales entre los principales aglomerados urbanos de Argentina, al desagregar por subperíodos, se evidencia que en los períodos de crecimiento económico (esencialmente del 2003 al 2009) se incrementaron las disparidades territoriales. En tanto que en los periodos de estancamiento, estas disparidades se redujeron.

Résumé

Ce travail analyse l'évolution récente des disparités territoriales en Argentine, mesurée à partir d'un Indice multidimensionnel de la pauvreté, sur la base d'une étude de la convergence entre les agglomérations urbaines. Il teste en particulier l'existence de la beta convergence absolue et de la sigma convergence. Les informations proviennent de microdonnées de l'Enquête permanente des ménages. Bien qu'une analyse ponctuelle de la période montre une réduction générale de la pauvreté accompagnée d'une réduction des disparités territoriales entre les principales agglomérations urbaines d'Argentine, la désagrégation par sous-périodes permet d'observer que pendant les périodes de croissance économique (essentiellement de 2003 à 2009), les disparités territoriales se sont accrues alors qu'en période de stagnation elles se sont réduites.

Open access

Lucila Zárraga Cano, María del Pilar Jiménez Márquez, Víctor Manuel Molina Morejón, and Enrique Corona Sandoval

Abstract

Tour guides responsible for publicizing and preserving cultural and historical heritage are part of the development of tourist regions. The objective of this article is to demonstrate the importance of the tangible and intangible resources available to tour guides for the appreciation of the socio-cultural and environmental aspects of tourist territories that generate value, satisfaction, and competitiveness. The modeling of structural equations was employed with a sample of 375 tourists who hired guides in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico. This analysis shows that the tangible and intangible resources guides provide allow them to be effective agents for the territory that promote the importance of the conservation of the physical, social, cultural, and environmental elements in Quintana Roo, Mexico.

Resumen

Los guías de turistas pueden actuar hacia el desarrollo de las regiones turísticas permitiendo conocer su patrimonio cultural e histórico. El objetivo es demostrar la importancia de los recursos tangibles e intangibles con que cuenta el guía para la apreciación de aspectos socioculturales y ambientales de territorios turísticos que generan valor, satisfacción y competitividad, a partir de la visión del turista. La metodología fue el modelado de ecuaciones estructurales, a una muestra de 375 turistas que utilizaron el servicio de un guía en el estado de Quintana Roo, México. Concluimos que los recursos tangibles e intangibles de los guías les permiten ser agentes dinamizadores del territorio, promueven la importancia de la conservación de los elementos, físico, social, cultural y ambiental en Quintana Roo, México.

Résumé

Les guides touristiques permettent de connaître le patrimoine culturel et historique et participent au développement des régions touristiques. L'article démontre l'importance des ressources tangibles et immatérielles dont dispose le guide pour mettre en valeur les aspects socioculturels et environnementaux des territoires touristiques en fonction de la satisfaction du touriste et de la compétitivité de la destination. La méthodologie s'appuie sur la modélisation des équations structurelles, à partir d'un échantillon de 375 touristes qui ont utilisé le service d'un guide dans l'état de Quintana Roo, au Mexique. Nous concluons que les ressources tangibles et immatérielles des guides leur permettent d'être des agents dynamiques du territoire et de promouvoir l'importance de la conservation des éléments physiques, sociaux, culturels et environnementaux au Quintana Roo.

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Facing a Toxic Object

Nuclear Waste Management and its Challenges for Nature-Culture-Relationships

Christiane Schürkmann

Abstract

Over the past decades, industrial societies have produced a range of substances whose effects humans increasingly identify as toxic—a prominent example is radioactive waste and the question of its disposal. This fabricated “object of modernity” not only calls for the knowledge of the natural sciences, it also affects society at large in its immense challenge of figuring out how to dispose of this material and altogether “detoxify” society from its hazardous activity. The contribution develops a heuristic perspective on toxic objects, exemplified by analyzing documents with a focus on how different societal actors in Germany problematize high-level radioactive waste (HLW) in the context of finding a repository site. The perspective on toxic objects aims to strengthen a more nuanced view of “modern” relationships between human action and material activity with regard to hazardous socio-chemical fabrications as a consequence of an objectified nature.

Open access

Erick Alfonso Galán Castro, América Libertad Rodríguez Herrera, and José Luis Rosas-Acevedo

Abstract

This article analyzes three types of water governance in the sub-basin of La Sabana River–Tres Palos Lagoon from the perspective of Michel Foucault's governmentality. These processes—including the board of directors of the Metropolitan Water Operator Organism called the Drinking Water and Sewage Commission of the Municipality of Acapulco (CAPAMA), the Basin Council of the La Sabana River–Laguna de Tres Palos Lagoon, and an experience in community water management in the town of Kilómetro 30, in the same municipality of Acapulco—are addressed through analysis based on the following question: How is the relationship between citizens and officials for water management in the Acapulco region governed? The actors perceive a greater tendency for political control than democratization in decision-making.

Resumen

Este artículo analiza tres tipos de gobernanza del agua en la subcuenca del Río La Sabana–Laguna de tres Palos desde la perspectiva de la gubernamentalidad de Michel Foucault. Estos procesos—el Consejo de Administración del Organismo Operador de Agua metropolitano denominado Comisión de Agua Potable y Alcantarillado del Municipio de Acapulco (CAPAMA), el Consejo de Cuenca del Río La Sabana– Laguna de Tres Palos, y una experiencia de gestión comunitaria de agua en la localidad de Kilómetro 30, del mismo municipio de Acapulco—son observados mediante la pregunta: ¿Cómo se gubernamentaliza la relación entre ciudadanos y funcionarios para la gestión del agua en esa región? Los actores perciben una mayor tendencia al control político que a la democratización en la toma de decisiones.

Résumé

Cet article analyse trois types de gouvernance de l'eau dans le sous-bassin de la rivière La Sabana-Laguna de tres Palos du point de vue de la gouvernementalité de Michel Foucault. Ces instances -le conseil d'administration de l'organisme métropolitain de l'exploitant de l'eau appelé Commission de l'eau potable et des égouts de la municipalité d'Acapulco (CAPAMA), le conseil du bassin du Río la Sabana-Laguna de Tres Palos, et une expérience dans la gestion communautaire de l'eau dans la localité du Kilometro 30, dans la même municipalité d'Acapulco-, sont observées à partir de la question suivante: comment la relation entre les citoyens et les responsables de la gestion de l'eau est-elle gouvernementalisée dans cette région? Il en ressort qu'en ce qui concerne la prise de décision, les acteurs perçoivent davantage une tendance au contrôle politique qu'à la démocratisation.

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Humans “in the Loop”?

Human-Centrism, Posthumanism, and AI

Nandita Biswas Mellamphy

Abstract

More and more scholarly attention is being paid to the challenges of governing artificial intelligence and emergent technologies. Most of the focus remains on questions of how to preserve the human-centeredness of increasingly advancing machine-driven technologies. I problematize discourses of “human-centered AI” that prioritize human control over nonhuman intelligences as a solution for the challenges posed by emergent technologies like artificial intelligence. Posthumanism provides a compelling theoretical basis for this line of questioning and for reimagining alternative ethical constructs. I outline and consider three distinct scenarios in which (a) humans are at the center of command and control, (b) humans and nonhumans share control, (c) human oversight is completely removed. I suggest that more attention could be given to critical and speculative ways of reimagining the concepts of “human,” “nonhuman,” and human/nonhuman relations.