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Parks and Peoples: The Social Impact of Protected Areas

by on September 24, 2011

West, Igoe and Brockington’s Parks and Peoples: The Social Impact of Protected Areas is an anthropological study of protected areas and conservation projects. They discuss and analyze the effects of conservation projects to the people who live (or lived) in the protected areas.

The data available to them is not very accurate because it is often information given by governments who do not tell the entire truth or are not interested in making accurate data. Some places such as India and Nepal have had much more attention especially in the Royal Chitwan National Park. In places like this it has been possible to see more of the consequences of displacing people.

There is a section on the separation of nature and culture where they say “NGO publications frequently present nature as a static object, separate from human beings”. In the United States, Native Americans were contained onto reservations, and National Parks became more about the saving the nature without the humans that lived in it. In some places, the Natives were tourist attractions for the people who visited.

In a later section, West (et al) talk about the effects conservation efforts have had on gender relationships around the world. Women have come together to build alliances and have broadened their social network. In more recent years, products made by native/ indigenous women has become much more popular.

This reading has some similarities to the Sakar and Montoya reading Beyond Parks and reserves. They write about the continuity between humanity and nature. They discuss issues about biodiversity and controlling nature in Peru in the fourth section of the reading.

Namgyel in Shifting Cultivation and Biodiversity Conservation in Bhutan talks about how people are affected by conservation efforts and have a difficult time adjusting, and that it is not a simple thing to change cultures and agricultural practices. In his reading he specifically talks about “slash and burn agriculture” that is a method used by native peoples in Bhutan. He emphasizes how “one should not simply assume a negative relationship” when discussing relations between people and the environment.

As a question for the class, are preserving environments and protecting people both important? If so, is there a way it would be possible to do both, or is there no way and do have to make a sacrifice of one or the other?

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8 Comments
  1. Protecting the environment and protecting people should be done together. What was shown in the article were some scenarios of people and the environment that they were living in. Even if they were there for a long time, they were counted as two separate objects that have very little to do with one another. These people that had lived in their environments were not destroying it at all, for the most part, they were living together with it. If we want to protect these people we have to let them have a suitable amount of land so that they can keep living as they wish. If we want to protect the environment, we have to be sure not to take out more than that particular environment can regenerate.

  2. 242colleencarey permalink

    Preserving environments and protecting people are both so important. People live in the environment, we need it, but at the same time can’t destroy it. If people could find a balance and learn that what we do in life has long term and short term affect on the environment, maybe both could be accomplished. This would be hard task though because not everyone is going to have an appreciation for the environment nor is everyone going to have means to understand our affects on it.

  3. janellekramer permalink

    The obvious answer is Yes, we should protect everyone and everything!! However, it is possible that sacrifices must be made. Many articles we have read lately have touched on the idea that it is not possible to save the land (and the world from climate change) while still preserving native cultures and habitats for indigenous people. However, why is it not possible? If there are people who live in the land and have lived there in that way for hundreds of years, why are we punishing them for the Western World’s mistake?? This leads me to wonder, should people in third-world countries change their lives to lower the effect of climate change?

  4. I have to agree with Janelle. Although I think there is this all-encompassing and romantic idea that the environment and people should be able to successfully function together, I doubt that it’s possible. The first thing I thought of when I read Summer’s question was that show “Life After People.” The environment was able (in this hypothetical world) to fully recover but only once people had been gone for an extended period of time. Is it possible that people are so destructive to the environment that the only way to help the environment is the full separation of the human species from earth? I know this may sound sort of crazy and this show (if you have ever seen it) is definitely a little strange, but perhaps we are so destructive that the only way to help our environment and repair it is to sacrifice our entire way of life.

  5. granted this is no doubt about it that it is essential to protect and conserve the environment. although i think that often times organizations focus so much on conserving the land that the indigenous people that live off the land are somewhat neglected or fall by the waist-side. i think that it is important to coincide the two. when speaking of the example of the American Indians i think that this is a perfect example of where conserving the land destroyed the overall culture and existence of those who used to occupy it. i think that organizations need to focus on more education for the indigenous people occupying the land, so the two could coexist. it would be a “win-win.” cultures and traditions remain, while conserving and protecting their land. these people ultimately care about the conservation, and i think would be eager to get on board if they were simply educated.

  6. In regards to Summer’s question about preserving environments and protecting people, I think it’s important to do both. If our culture stems from not only we as people but from the areas in which we live, then I think that protecting one and not the other is doing an injustice to what anthropologists are trying to do. People who already inhabit these areas that are being preserved have a good idea of the place and how to care for it, and I feel like separating them is like dividing their culture, and that could be devastating. Who’s to say that they don’t already have a good way of preserving the land, and why can’t we just help them do so? Why strip people of a place where they have made homes, but where they identify themselves? Nature and culture are all too often closely entwined, and I think that, yes, it’s possible to protect both people and their environment, and in doing so, as Desiree said, we’d have a ‘win-win’ situation on our hands. I think it’s important to save all aspects of the culture, which includes both the people and the place in which they reside.

  7. The fact that women have more political power is encouraging. The discourse of development has caused harm, but there are a select few messages that it attempts to spread which I believe in. I certainly am not a traditional feminist, but I feel that it’s important for women to be able to take control of their lives economically in a healthy way.
    I also think that the people who live in areas that become national parks have better knowledge of he area and know what to do to prevent it’s corruption better than the creators of the national parks who have lost the traditional knowledge.

  8. Benjamin N. permalink

    Protecting the environment and the people are ABSOLUTELY important! The problem is that people need to exploit the environment in order to thrive in modern society. It’s sort of a catch-22. We need to strike a balance that allows us to live optimally while minimizing environmental impact, but this can be a difficult thing to do. I think small changes are what really count – walking instead of driving, taking shorter showers, using less paper products, etc. Small changes are doable long-term and can really add up for great results.

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