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Beyond parks and reserves: The ethics and politics of conservation with a case study from Perú

by on September 29, 2011

Sahotra Sarkar and Mariana Montoya start their article with a complex argument that has plagued philosophers for centuries: What holds intrinsic value?  For the layman in Philosophy, intrinsic value is somehting that is valuable in and of itself.  A good way to depict intrinsic value is to explain the opposite: extrinsic value.  A choice example of extrinsic value is paper money.  The paper itself has no real value to any of us; it’s just paper, yet we hold a one hundred dollar bill and we associate great value with that piece of paper.  Intrinsic value is something that is valuable because it is basically necessary (basically meaning at the most basic level).

The article agrees that nature definitely holds intrinsic value, the article calls this “Natural Value”.  However, the greater question addressed in Sakar and Montoya’s article is which parts of nature hold intrinsic value, and more importantly,  WHO gets to decide which of these parts of nature have intrinsic value, and thus; which parts of nature are worth conserving.

The “WHO” in Montoya and Sarkars article are lableled by Sakar and Montoya as the “North” and “South.”  The “North” is the European and Neo-European beliefs that hold humans as separate from nature.  (i.e. Humans are above nature, we control nature).

The “South” that Montoya and Sarkar refer to is the post-colonial belief that we are a part of nature and hold nature as a resource that humans must be a part of to survive.

Montoya and Sarkar then go on to explain in thick detail three strategies of conservation: The Fortress model, the Biosphere Reserve (BR) Model, and the Social Ecology (SE) Model.

The first strategy, the Fortress Model, basically refers to the strategy of utilizing government established National Parks to preserve a certain area of the aforementioned Natural Value.  In this strategy the government that reins over the area decided which areas have natural value and are to be protected.  Also, in this strategy no one is allowed to live on the protected land and therefore none of the nature is utilized.

The Second strategy, the Biosphere Model is a little different than the former because a select few citizens are allowed to live on the protected land.  An example would be native american reserves.  However, the natives are often pushed to a corner of the reserve and the land and it’s resources are still controlled by the government.

The third strategy which the article favors, the Social Ecology model, gives the land back to the indigenous peoples.  The natives get to decide where and what should be protected.  They also are allowed to live off of the land, which Montoya and Sarkar refer to as Southern living, the pre-colonial, nature-human mutualism that I stated previously.  The authors say that for a conservation strategy to work it must be relatively easy and in human interest.  We must be able to live with the land that we are trying to conserve.

In the article, stages of conducting the SE model are portrayed.  There are thirteen stages but I will just touch on a few of great importance to the SE model.  The first stage (and these are not meant to be ordered steps, one may come before another or not) is to delimit the boundaries of the study area.  This means that the area of conservation may cross national or other borders and that is OK because oftentimes government boundaries have made conservation very difficult.  Second, the stakeholders for the planning region must be identified.  The SE model stresses that the local residents must be the most privileged stakeholders because they live there and the land really belongs mostly to them.  Sarkar states “National and trans-national entities must negotiate with the local residents to obtain such status” (980).

After explaining in detail the SE model, Sarkar and Montoya applied to to a case study of the Kandozi people of Peru.  The Kandozi at first tried the BR and fortress models.  The local residents were able to have a say in where the national parks and reserves were however the government still was granting concessions to private companies to extract subsoil resources without the locals even knowing.  This proves that the fortress and BR model doesn’t work and now the locals don’t trust the government.

I agreed with this article as it takes a very sustainable approach.  We cannot take on the fortress model and only conserve National Parks, making them untappable, while raping the environment that we are allowed by the government to live in.  We must utilize the land that we live on without depleting it’s resources.  We must, as a society, take on the responsibility of conservation on a small scale.  If each community around the world got together and took a long look at what resources their individual environment had to offer, we could harness the unique powers of our propriate locations.

When thinking of the Fortress Model that Montoya and Sarkar describe another article comes to mind.  The Padoch et al Article speaks of the separation between nature and culture.  The Fortress model puts physical boundaries between culture and nature in so that we are not allowed to live in the fortresses of the National Parks.  This article also speaks to the political side of the Padoch article in that it illuminates the political aspect of the fortresses.  National Parks are totally chosen by the government and it would be foolish to think that the government is solely choosing the boundaries of these fortresses without any outside incentives.

  1. Sean Butler permalink

    I agree with the authors’ idea that the SE model is most beneficial because of the conservation areas crossing national and other borders. It is important to realize that state or national boundaries generally are made with disregard for nature conservation and designated conservation areas must be allowed to cross borders. The only problem that I have with the SE model is the belief that the indigenous people who have the land returned to them are more educated about conservation and would automatically be the best group of people to make decisions about conservation simply because they are indigenous.

  2. I am intrigued by this article but I completely agree with Sean’s comment above. I think that it offers a great solution that could ultimately help the environment but we cannot impose our idealistic vision of indigenous people on the landscape. People are always changing and so is the environment, I think we need to approach the issue of conservation as an entire population issue. It is not up to one group of people to help a sick environment, we are all responsible for what is happening and therefore we all must play our own part in healing it once again.

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