In a globalizing world, the preservation of the natural environment has emerged as a transnational issue. However, local populations often are at odds with the objectives of environmental protection, viewing them as unwelcome outside interventions.
In a globalizing world, the protection and preservation of the natural environment has emerged as a transnational issue. European institutions claim that maintaining biological diversity is a task that requires putting the common good of Europeans above particular interests. However, local populations often are at odds with the objectives of environmental protection, viewing them as unwelcome outside interventions engineered by distant political elites. The implementation of new environmental policies such as the EU's Natura 2000 network often triggers conflicts that bring to the fore complex issues of entitlement, property relations, stewardship, and local participation in planning processes. In some cases, an ethics of environmentalism clashes with an ethics of cultural self-determination. As anthropologists and ethnologists, we tend to find local environmental practices legitimate as long as they are justified by a traditional cultural order, even if they may be detrimental to biodiversity and sustainable resource management. Yet, we also need to realize that the requirements that allow the biological world to function cannot be 'constructed' out of existence. In ethnological and anthropological fieldwork, such conflicts challenge us to rethink notions of advocacy, responsibility, and reflexivity. The panel will engage European ethnologists and social anthropologists, preferentially with case studies from southern Europe, and from Portugal in particular. Also, we would like to enter into a dialogue with participants from other disciplines - regional planning, environmental science, landscape architecture - and invite them to share their practical experiences and political perspectives.