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Because the Anthropocene by definition is an epoch during which environmental change is largely anthropogenic and driven by social, economic, psychological and political forces, environmental social scientists can effectively analyse human behaviour and knowledge systems in this context. In this subject review, we summarize key ways in which the environmental social sciences can better inform fisheries management policy and practice and marine conservation in the Anthropocene. We argue that environmental social scientists are particularly well positioned to synergize research to fill the gaps between: (1) local behaviours/needs/worldviews and marine resource management and biological conservation concerns; and (2) large-scale drivers of planetary environmental change (globalization, affluence, technological change, etc.) and local cognitive, socioeconomic, cultural and historical processes that shape human behaviour in the marine environment. To illustrate this, we synthesize the roles of various environmental social science disciplines in better understanding the interaction between humans and tropical marine ecosystems in developing nations where issues arising from human–coastal interactions are particularly pronounced. We focus on: (1) the application of the environmental social sciences in marine resource management and conservation; (2) the development of ‘new’ socially equitable marine conservation; (3) repopulating the seascape; (4) incorporating multi-scale dynamics of marine social–ecological systems; and (5) envisioning the future of marine resource management and conservation for producing policies and projects for comprehensive and successful resource management and conservation in the Anthropocene.
This book, Environmental Social Sciences, represents the best of what’s happening in social science right now: (1) it exemplifies the movement toward interdisciplinary research; (2) it rejects the pernicious distinction between qualitative and quantitative in the conduct of social research; and (3) it makes clear the value for all social scientists of training in a wide range of methods of collecting and analyzing data. I treat these in turn.
1. Interdisciplinary social science. Environmental science has always been an interdisciplinary effort. The Science Citation Index lists 163 journals in the category of environmental science. Look through the top 10 journals (the ones with an impact factor of 4.0 or more) and the range of disciplines is clear: biologists, chemists, meteorologists, paleontologists, geologists … Increasingly, it is common to see articles – like one by Clougherty (2010) on gender analysis in the distribution of the effects of air pollution, or one by Knoke et al. (2009) on reconciling the subsistence needs of farmers in Ecuador with the need for conserving forests, or one by Rosas-Rosas and Valdez (2010) on the impact of fees from deer hunts on the willingness of landowners in Mexico to suspend killing of pumas and jaguars – articles that can only be described as social science. (We see this as well in medical science, where the very best journals now also routinely publish articles that also can only be described as 100% social science.)
The relationship between human communities and the environment is extremely complex. In order to resolve the issues involved with this relationship, interdisciplinary research combining natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities is necessary. In this 2010 book, specialists summarise methods and research strategies for various aspects of social research devoted to environmental issues. Each chapter is illustrated with ethnographic and environmental examples, ranging from Australia to Amazonia, from Madagascar to the United States, and from prehistoric and historic cases to contemporary rural and urban ones. It deals with climate change, deforestation, environmental knowledge, natural reserves, politics and ownership of natural resources, and the effect of differing spatial and temporal scales. Contributing to the intellectual project of interdisciplinary environmental social science, this book shows the possibilities social science can provide to environmental studies and to larger global problems and thus will be of equal interest to social and natural scientists and policy makers.
This book resulted from our desire to achieve two goals. First, we wanted to assemble a volume that could help researchers and students interested in the social aspects of environmental issues to identify the methodological possibilities offered by social sciences. Second, we wanted to present the pluralistic, interdisciplinary mix of methods, and qualitative and quantitative approaches, found in contemporary research in this area. We hope readers will find our attempts successful.
We want to acknowledge our intellectual debt to the colleagues and teachers who have helped us understand the dynamic range of possibilities in environmental social science. Ismael and Eric specifically offer tribute to the Graduate Program in Environmental Anthropology at the University of Washington. Although now moribund, the “EA Program” flourished for over a decade and provided its participants (students and faculty alike) with a dynamic intellectual and social environment for exploring diverse and non-dogmatic approaches to environmental social sciences. In comparison to a decade ago, there are now a growing number of vibrant programs for environmental social science, and an expanding scholarly and applied literature.
Environmental social science has its roots in several disciplines and research traditions, ranging from anthropology to zoology Disciplinary identities and frameworks continue to play a significant role: environmental anthropology, political ecology (centered in geography), environmental social science, and similar named entities in several other disciplines have their own associations, scholarly journals, and sets of issues. But increasingly there is convergence, transdisciplinary interaction, and the forging of a coherent if loosely bounded research community, with scholars and practitioners from many different disciplines in the social sciences, humanities, and applied fields engaged in fruitful dialogue and collaboration. This volume aims to foster this emerging field by presenting authoritative summaries of central research methods in a manner accessible to all. In the next section, we summarize the organization of the volume and the content of each chapter; but first, in the present section, we wish to situate this emerging field in a broader intellectual and historical context.
There are many factors that helped generate environmental social science, but two are prominent. The first was the realization that landscapes and the multitude of components they contain cannot be understood without serious consideration of past and present human communities. It is now widely understood that most terrestrial and near-shore environments are profoundly shaped by human actions – they are “socionatural” systems (Balée 2006; Denevan 1992; Smith and Wishnie 2000). These anthropogenic impacts are not limited to large-scale societies, but extend back to the initial dispersal of Homo sapiens some 60 000 years ago, and include effects that both enhanced and diminished biodiversity and ecosystem functions.
The current globalization of the world is resulting on entire regions suffering sudden structural reconfigurations through the re-organization of economic activities of industrial towns and agrarian landscapes. Contemporary Western societies have seen industries and its associated values move away to cheaper locales, replaced by a services economy focused on providing leisure to these urban dominated societies. Postindustrial landscapes, characterized by economic decay, depopulation, and abandonment, followed by reinvestment, resettlement, and rejuvenation, are not unique to the last century. But what marks out the last thirty years of the twentieth century is the technological revolution in travel and communication, accompanied by the rise of modern environmentalisms.
This introduction and the essays that it prefaces are taking forward a growing debate on how to re-theorize the concept of social nature, by reflecting upon it under the specific light of postindustrial social formations. They look at how nature is imagined and pursued as an aesthetic, a moral compass, and as diverse locations inside and outside the cultural and material separations already made in the social construction of industrial space. The emergence of distinct postindustrial social imaginaries, where divisions like folk and rational thought are not only questioned but also newly remade, is of particular interest to this collection of essays.
At the dawn of the twenty first century, nature, in the valley of Lillet, is represented by luxuriant forests, the return of charismatic animal species and dramatic landscapes. The valley of Lillet is located in the Catalan Pyrenees in Northeast Spain. Its complex recent history has left deep tracks on its landscape. The wilderness that currently characterizes this area is a direct result of this history. In the last two centuries this valley sequentially experienced a transition from traditional agricultural life to a modernized and hyper-industrialized mode of production. Once covered by farms and agricultural terraces, the valley became an industrial center. After the seventies and the global oil crises, mines closed and factories fled the valley, and with them most of its population. Subsequently, the landscape was ready for the postmodern takeover: protected areas and ski resorts occupied the ranges. Thus, the deindustrialization of the valley did not bring the farms back. The postindustrial landscape that emerged from the transformation is not just the product of this double transition, but the result of a simultaneous cohabitation of elements from each “period”. In postindustrial and mostly urban Catalonia, wilderness and eco-leisure have become an extremely desirable commodity. Depopulated rural Catalonia provides an ideal setting for a new wave of urban re-appropriation of the landscape.
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