EASA2012: Uncertainty and disquiet

Nanterre University, France, 10/07/2012 – 13/07/2012

(W052)

Threats on biodiversity: species extinction and sentinel technologies

Location R09 (in V)
Date and Start Time 11 Jul, 2012 at 11:30

Convenors

Vanessa Manceron (CNRS) email
Frédéric Keck (Musée du quai Branly) email
Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

Papers will cover the technologies for counting, predicting and raising alert that circulate between actors in charge of the protection of biodiversity. We encourage the study of scientific controversies and technical devices that circumvent environmental uncertainty at global and local levels.

Long Abstract

Since biodiversity became a global imperative (at the Rio Conference in 1992), many actors are involved in couting species and raising alert on their risk of extinction. If the global stake is in itself consensual, the making of these inventories destined to guide public action and build predictive models triggers debates and controversies at different scales : international organisations for conservation, national administrations in charge of environmental protection, local associations of nature observers…The assessment and reduction of risks, in the worrying horizon of climate change, are inscribed in the long temporality of scientific probability and the short termporality of political and civic action. The question of measuring is at the heart of a subtle game between the known and the unknown, the expected and the unexpected, putting at grips different forms of knowledges and science productors. Norms circulate which aim at standardizing modes of inventory and cartography, and perceptual technologies to raise alert. New figures of the sentinel appear, that should be analysed as formes of management of uncertainty : the model of the canary in the mine, often invoked by naturalist whistleblowers, is transformed when new species and new threats are at stake. This workshop will gather ethnographic contributions that take alert on biodiversity as an entry point in the study of forms of management but also social construction of uncertainty, in a context where different formes of knowledge are used to assess and control the new relations emerging between humans and non-humans at local and global scales.

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Hong Kong as a sentinel for Avian Flu: the role of birdwatchers

Author: Frédéric Keck (Musée du quai Branly)  email
Mail All Authors

Short Abstract

This paper will examine the transformations of the activities of the Hong Kong Birdwatching Society by the mobilization on Avian Flu.

Long Abstract

Since 1997, Hong Kong has ben described as the "sentinel" where flu viruses emerge on birds before spreading to pigs and humans, causing a possible pandemic. How does this catastrophic identification transform the role of birdwatchers ? After complaining for the closure of Mai Po ornithological reserve by the governement, the Hong Kong Birdwatching Society has become a major actor not only in the protection of the environment but also in the surveillance of the Avian population. This paper will examine how norms of surveillance are compatible with naturalistic passions for birds. It will also ask how the mobilization on Avian Flu can be transported to other forms of environmental threats, such as climate change or species extinction.

Cartographier et compter les vivants, ou comment repeupler la nature

Author: Vanessa Manceron (CNRS)  email
Mail All Authors

Short Abstract

Qu'est ce qu'identifier, compter et cartographier les êtres vivants veut dire pour les naturalistes amateurs anglais ? Nous réfléchirons aux multiples motifs que recèle l'acte d'inventorier, à la croisée de mobilisations citoyennes, de préoccupations scientifiques et de relations éprouvées avec les vivants. Notre propos consistera à montrer comment les inventaires et les cartographies fonctionnent pour les naturalistes comme de véritables dispositifs de repeuplement de la nature.

Long Abstract

En Angleterre, le territoire national fait l'objet d'une observation minutieuse et systématique de l'ensemble des vivants qui le peuplent au moyen d'inventaires qui mobilisent un nombre croissant de naturalistes amateurs. Ces réseaux de "volontaires" qui se sont en quelque sorte substitués aux "naturalistes éclairés" des sociétés savantes en déclin connaissent un succès grandissant sous l'impulsion des politiques publiques environnementales. Cette évolution qui renouvelle tout en la prolongeant la tradition naturaliste anglaise se situe à la croisée d'injonctions sociales et politiques particulièrement fortes, mais aussi de motifs plus ténus qui ont trait à l'angoisse de la disparition progressive et irrémédiable de l'ensemble des vivants. L'hypothèse soutenue ici, est que l'énumération, la cartographie et l'identification des vivants sont, pour les naturalistes amateurs, de véritables dispositifs de repeuplement du monde, que l'accumulation, la mémorisation et la figuration rendent opérants et visibles.

Construire la biodiversité par les chiffres

Author: Agnes Fortier (INRA)  email
Mail All Authors

Short Abstract

Prenant pour objet d’études les dispositifs régionaux de rationalisation des données naturalistes en France, nous examinerons leur contenu et leurs effets sur les pratiques, en montrant l'agencement des dimensions cognitives et des formes de pouvoirs au sein des réseaux de producteurs de données.

Long Abstract

La dimension cognitive constitue un élément essentiel des politiques de conservation de la biodiversité. Depuis trois décennies, la construction de l'UE en matière d'environnement, les Conventions internationales et la multiplication des formes d'actions publiques en faveur du vivant ont suscité des besoins en matière de données naturalistes fiables et standardisées. Cette entreprise de quantification s'avère délicate et longue et se traduit par la mise en place de dispositifs comme les systèmes d'information ou les observatoires de la biodiversité (national et régional). L'objet de cette communication est d'apporter des éléments de réflexion sur les dispositifs observés au niveau régional à la fois du point de vue de leurs contenus cognitifs et normatifs, des réseaux d'acteurs qu'ils tissent et des effets qu'ils produisent. Nous voudrions montrer qu'au-delà des objectifs revendiqués de faciliter l'accès aux données, ces dispositifs ont pour effet de reconfigurer les légitimités et les formes de pouvoir et dans le même temps d'orienter les actions des producteurs de données en particulier des associations naturalistes qui figurent parmi les principaux fournisseurs d'information sur la nature, en France. Ajoutons enfin, le rôle performatif de ces dispositifs qui participent d'une construction du réel et de la biodiversité. Cette recherche fondée sur une approche socio-anthropologique s'appuiera sur l'examen de dispositifs d'information régionaux, avec le souci de replacer ces initiatives dans un contexte national et européen. Elle mobilisera les outils de la sociologie des sciences et de la sociologie de l'action publique.

Sentinel organisms and the monitoring of water quality

Author: Christelle Gramaglia (Institut National de Recherche en Sciences et Technologies pour l'environnement et l'agriculture)  email
Mail All Authors

Short Abstract

The aim of this paper is to discuss ways of knowing water pollution on the basis of ethnographic materials collected in Viviez (Aveyron, Southwestern France)and along the Lot-Gironde water system. It focusses on the work of ecotoxicologists who have developed methods to study toxics’ such as cadmium and are now able to monitor their noxiousness thanks to the fish, molluscs and algae they can enroll as sentinels in their experiments. It gives us us the opportunity to discuss the role of human and non-human assemblage in the management of environmental hazards.

Long Abstract

Aside from dramatic events that make the news, the problems of pollution in rivers are hardly visible. Unless the color of water changes, or large quantities of dead fish are being carried along in the current, only very attentive and technically-equipped observers can evaluate their effects. It has been the case for a very long time in Viviez, Aveyron (Southwestern France), where a zinc factory is still operating immediately upstream the confluence of the Riou Mort and the Lot rivers. The activities of the plant have been reduced since the 1980's. Great efforts have also been undertaken to reduce the impact of zinc production on the environment. A soil remediation program is on progress too, but cadmium contaminated sediments are still a problem. Indeed, large quantities of toxics were washed away and are still trapped in the bed of the Lot river and the Gironde estuary, affecting water quality and aquatic biodiversity. The aim of this paper is to discuss ways of knowing water pollution on the basis of ethnographic materials collected along the Lot-Gironde water system. It focuses on the work of ecotoxicologists who have developed methods to study toxics' such as cadmium and are now able to monitor their noxiousness thanks to the fish, molluscs and algae they can enroll as sentinels in their experiments. This paper presents innovative techniques used by ecotoxicologists giving us the opportunity to discuss the role of human and non-human assemblage in the management of environmental hazards.

The conservation of biodiversity in the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve: analysis of the fishermen community of Hezra (Romania)

Author: Georgeta Stoica (Institut de Recherche pour le Développement - IRD France)  email
Mail All Authors

Short Abstract

The aim of the paper is that of showing, in a critical prospective, the practices of a Danube Delta village, Hezra (Romania), that develop as part of a broader process of transformation that affects the whole area, focusing on the loss of biodiversity and the ten year sturgeon fishing ban.

Long Abstract

In April 2006, Romania banned sturgeon fishing for the next ten years. Numerous international environmental organizations and institutions have stated that similar long-term recovery plans are needed to prevent extinction. Unfortunately the ban has lead to case of illegal fishing as trade in sturgeon caviar is an extremely profitable business. The aim of the paper is that of showing, in a critical prospective, the practices of a Danube Delta village, Hezra (Romania), that develop as part of a broader process of transformation that affects the whole area, focusing on the use of natural resources and the loss of biodiversity.

Part of the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve, the village of Hezra has seen rapid transformations of the rules governing the use of the environment and had to face with the arrival of new subjects (businessmen, traders) armed with economic and cultural capitals that they use to their advantage. Once a fishing village, Hezra witnesses today a substantial decline of the biodiversity especially connected to the fishing activity, mainly due to the ban of sturgeon fishing motivated by reasons of species protection. The practices and policies of environmental protection are an integral part of various projects of social and economical development of the area and are being realized and acted by different actors, using the gap of knowledge and power within local populations and between them and the outside world.

Of the rosemary, the sage and the commons

Author: Elsa Mateus (Institute of Social Sciences - University of Lisbon)  email
Mail All Authors

Short Abstract

Community-based management strategies based on ethnobotanical knowledge will be analyzed as a process where biodiversity and traditional knowledge protection are intertwined with herbal medicines market demands, pharmaceutical research, local development, eco-tourism and sustainability concepts.

Long Abstract

This paper is an introduction to a case study on a small village known as "Terra das Ervanárias" (Land of Herbology), in the surroundings of a Portuguese Natural Park (Serras de Aire and Candeeiros).

The new identity is framed by a strategy of community-based management of natural resources and forest in communal lands (baldios) for local development. The management council (2006) has assumed promoting the Land of Herbology as one of its main projects, in order to restore and protect the traditional ethnobotanical knowledge, expressed in the gathering of spontaneous plants with medicinal value, in a process of restructuring local appropriations of the environment around ecotourism as an effort to sustain conservation and traditional practices within rural economies, uniting social and environmental objectives.

The claim of tradition in the gathering of plants and herbs used in folk medicine and its marketing process by the local industry of herbal products can also constitute an attempt to involve local subjects in the development of "legitimate" knowledge about a native species of sage (Salvia) which is potentially useful for drug development for Alzheimer's therapy, namely, through the possibility of producing it locally.

To be supported by Agronomic Science implies different forms of knowledge and new relations emerging between humans and non-humans at local and global scales.

This paper aims for a reflection upon processes where biodiversity and ethnobotanical knowledge are intertwined with market demands on herbal medicines, agronomic and pharmaceutical research, local development and community based management of natural resources.

Jungle backyards: a postnatural history of US Tigers

Author: David Jaclin (University of Ottawa)  email
Mail All Authors

Short Abstract

This paper questions the communicational processes that inform and affect the plasticity of animal existences. By taking the example of US Tigers, it readresses some critical biodiversity issues.

Long Abstract

Because there is a dramatic decrease in the number of tigers in the world today (from 100 000 in 1900 to less than 20 000 in 2005), considerable efforts are made in order to save and protect this species (i.e. as pre-defined members of a category). But a problem lies in the definition of species itself. How does our idea of a tiger hold up when a majority of actual tigers now live in captivity? Is a tiger still a tiger if it remains caged, eats meat from the supermarket and reproduces only when allowed to? Thinking restrictively in terms of species may lead the debate on conservationism (and the organisms concerned by it) to a dead end. What to make of the variations and transformations experienced by individuals of a same phylogenetic category?

A postantural history of US tigers suggest taking into account the diversity of situations where known living organisms experience unknown (re)organizations of life. Here, nature and culture overlap. Hybridized, they modulate biologies and mythologies, articulating physicality and discursivity, behaviours and policies. In that respect, examples taken from contemporean "humanimal" case studies could shed a new light on adaptation processes, plasticity and (new) ways organisms express not only life, but vitality.

Pets, livestock and biodiversity issue from the point of view of animal protection groups

Author: Samantha Gaspar (Museu Nacional - UFRJ)  email
Mail All Authors

Short Abstract

Given the consolidation of biodiversity as a global imperative, I aim to look how such imperative is reread by Brazilian animal protection groups in relation to domestic animals and livestock.

Long Abstract

Given the consolidation of biodiversity as a global imperative, I aim to look how such imperative is reread by Brazilian animal protection groups in relation to domestic animals and livestock. It is, therefore, to explore how the idea of species guard gets a new shape when the focus are not about wild animals, but domestic animals (such as dogs and cats) and livestock (such as cattle and chickens). For this, I looked into the reflections developed by such groups in the Brazilian context in which these themes become visible in discussions about the existence of livestock in a supposed future hegemonic vegan and in discussions about castration in the case of domestic animals. Through this analysis, I seek to understand which elaborations are developed in respect of the categories "nature", "animal", "domestication" and "human".

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.