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SIEF2011 10th Congress: Lisbon, Portugal.
17-21 April 2011

(P308)

Negotiating environmental conflicts: local communities, global policies

Location Tower A, Piso 1, Room 104
Date and Start Time 20 Apr, 2011 at 11:30

Convenors

Gisela Welz (Goethe University Frankfurt) email
Eva Maria Blum (City of Frankfurt) email
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Short Abstract

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.

Long Abstract

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.

Chair: Gisela Welz, Eva-Maria Blum

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Uncertainty regarding waste handling in Swedish everyday life

Author: Lynn Akesson (Lund university)  email
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Short Abstract

Waste disposal is a growing problem in consumer society. Cultural analysis gives important contributions in understanding individual as well as societal perspectives when decisions on implementation are linked to discursive conceptions on clean and unclean, life-quality and a healthy environment.

Long Abstract

Key environmental problems are closely related to the way in which waste is created and managed. The conditions for waste management and waste sorting vary between different local environments and contexts, but people's attitudes towards waste sorting tend to be essentially positive. Practical, easily handled, comprehensible and well-founded waste management makes it easier for people to act in accordance with their positive attitudes.

According to our study based on interviews with households in a residential area in Sweden, uncertainty is a cultural barrier to improved recycling. Four identified causes of uncertainty are: Bureaucratic categories not matching cultural categories - people easily discriminate between certain categories (e.g. materials such as plastic and paper) but not between others (e.g. packaging and 'non-packaging'). Thus a frequent cause of uncertainty is that the basic categories of the waste recycling system do not coincide with the basic categories used in everyday life. Challenged habits - source separation in everyday life is habitual, but when a habit is challenged, by a particular element or feature of the waste system, uncertainty can arise. Lacking fractions - some kinds of items cannot be left for recycling and this makes waste collection incomplete from the user's point of view and in turn lowers the credibility of the system. Missing or contradictory rules of thumb - the above causes seem to be particularly relevant if no motivating principle or rule of thumb (within the context of use) is successfully conveyed to the user. This paper discusses how reducing uncertainty can improve recycling.

Participatory frameworks and the goal of public involvement in environmental projects

Author: Susana Nascimento (European Commission, Joint Research Centre)  email
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Short Abstract

Environmental interventions tend to ignore local contexts and communities. This paper will focus on recent methods and case studies on public participation that have strived for more active involvement of populations in the implementation of various projects.

Long Abstract

Environmental interventions are often seen by local communities as unwanted or ill-prepared intrusions, with no regard to its specific circumstances and needs. In fact, most technological projects tend to ignore or underestimate the cultural and social context where they will be developed. This paper underlines recent concepts, methods and case studies on public participation that should be used to actively involve local populations and citizens in the design and implementation of such processes.

There has been a "democratic turn" in the field of public understanding of science and technology, emerging from criticisms against one-way relations between experts and lay people. Scholars as Alan Irwin, Brian Wynne, or Sheila Jasanoff, have argued that non-experts can meaningfully engage in discussions, and that their scepticism is mainly due to mistrust of science, governments and their representatives. Involving the public since the early stages is a way to mitigate this unease, to create new mechanisms of dialogue, to access valuable local knowledge, to adapt and legitimate projects, and to empower local communities.

The paper presents the distinct rationales, strengths and shortcomings of participatory methods that foster public engagement, such as public hearings, focus groups, consensus conferences, citizen's advisory councils, future and scenario workshops, etc. Moreover, several case studies are reviewed, for example a national travelling exhibition on coastal management in Spain, future scenarios for nuclear waste management in France, or even public participation geographical information systems in Scotland that involve communities from the data collection stage, to the analysis, presentation and communication of information.

Citizens' reactions to congestion charges in Stockholm, Sweden

Author: Greger Henriksson  email
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Short Abstract

Introduction of congestion charges in Stockholm gave rise to massive criticism from residents regarding interference in everyday lives and political maneuvering. But the number of car trips decreased by 20% in the inner city and a majority voted yes to the charges 9 months after the introduction.

Long Abstract

In Stockholm there was a full-scale trial of congestion charges from January 3 until July 31, 2006. It was successful in terms of reducing congestion and emissions. Using qualitative interviews and travel diaries from residents in the region, results showed that the trial gave rise to both new ideas and criticisms in a number of areas, such as traffic measures, interference in people's everyday lives and political maneuvering. The latter type of criticism partly seemed to be a rhetorical way of reacting to car travel being questioned. The trial shed light on travel habits, for example in terms of which trips were actually canceled, thus decreasing the total number of trips by 20% in the inner city. It transpired that it was car trips for social or leisure reasons that were canceled, rather than routine trips for e.g. work and food shopping. The trial appears to have contributed to interrupting habit-forming processes regarding the former. Shortly after the trial a majority of inhabitants in the city of Stockholm voted yes to the charges in a referendum. This indicates that traffic is an area in which the general public demands political action and concrete measures. The fact that many of those critical of the charges provided detailed ideas for alternative measures confirms this assumption. The trial extended the scope of local residents' ideas about possible solutions to the problems created by Stockholm traffic, although the authorities and politicians involved seemed ill-prepared to consider the wide range of reactions aroused.

Old antagonisms in new energy landscapes: wind power in Portuguese protected areas

Authors: Carlos Mendes (ESTG-Instituto Politécnico de Viana do Castelo)  email
Ana Isabel Afonso (CICS.NOVA/FCSH-Universidade Nova de Lisboa)  email
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Short Abstract

This paper aims at addressing the recent efforts of the Portuguese authorities to transform the physical and symbolic landscapes of the country through the extensive adoption of wind power, focusing on the conflictive aspects of the implementation of wind farms in protected areas.

Long Abstract

This paper aims at addressing, from an anthropological viewpoint, the recent process of transformation of the physical and symbolic landscapes of the country through the extensive adoption of renewable energies (particularly wind power).

The widespread of a new presumably benign (and only apparently consensual) mechanized landscape has been taken as a material testimony of effective local appropriation of environmental ideas that circulate globally, as well as an opportunity to debunk longstanding cultural assumptions of Portugal as an undeveloped "Mediterranean" place and to re-imagine it as a modern "European" country. At the local level, authorities struggle for wind power, which is expected to bring "development" to "remote areas".

Our presentation will be focused on the controversial aspects of the implementation of wind parks in two Portuguese protected areas - the Nature Park of Aire and Candeeiros Mountains and the Nature Park of Montesinho. In both case-studies we have followed the local debates on the setting up of wind parks in the baldios (communal lands) that are reactivating old antagonisms between the local populations and the preservationist authorities. We believe that theses case studies may aptly illustrate the clash between the "ethics of environmentalism" and the "ethics of cultural self-determination" suggested by the convenors of this panel.

Finding new vocations for a post-mining landscape: the case of the São Domingos environmental rehabilitation (Southern Alentejo, Portugal)

Authors: Julia Carolino (CIAUD - Faculty of Architecture of Lisbon)  email
Idalina Dias Sardinha (ISEG, School of Economics and Management, UTL, Technical University of Lisbon)  email
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Short Abstract

The paper deals with a degraded mining area and its forthcoming environmental rehabilitation, describing the local landscape as an arena for negotiating a social reality that owes its existence and current redefinition to both ‘local’ and ‘global’ dynamics.

Long Abstract

The paper deals with the environmental rehabilitation of the São Domingos post-mining landscape, located in Mértola (Southern Portugal) at the heart of the Iberian pyrite belt. After several decades of abandonment, following the end of extractive activities in the late 60's and in face of the degradation of the natural environment, the Portuguese State granted to a state-owned company the concession to design and promote the environmental rehabilitation of the area. The paper presents the first insights of a ongoing multidisciplinary research project regarding the total value (environmental, socio-economic and cultural) potentially generated by the rehabilitation process.

The case under examination exemplifies well the contrast between a globalised notion of common good, in the case of environmental preservation, and a local focus on dimensions of human life of a different kind, regarding namely the enhancement of daily life quality in the still inhabited area of the former mining-complex. However, one should not be too fast in assuming a simple contradiction between globalised environmental concerns versus other locally defined priorities. The paper proposes a more detailed description of such relations through an approach to landscape as the physical expression of an arena of negotiation by different sorts of social actors. It describes and discusses the mutually implicated effects of natural processes, human experience and governance in shaping and reshaping a mining landscape that owes its existence and current redefinition to both 'local' and 'global' dynamics.

The greening of the southwestern coast of Portugal

Authors: Dorle Dracklé (University of Bremen)  email
Werner Krauß (University of Bremen)  email
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Short Abstract

The establishment of the nature park Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina in Portugal provoked permanent conflicts with local populations. In this paper we will argue that the scientific construction of “nature” served as vehicle for a major political and social transformation of this former poorhouse of Europe.

Long Abstract

The Portuguese Southwest is praised as the best preserved coastline in Europe. Founded in 1995, the nature park Southwest Alentejo and Vicentinian coast has a troubled history. From its beginning as a "protected landscape" in the late eighties, the discovery of this coast as a site for nature conservation and sustainable development provoked permanent conflicts with the local populations. In this paper we will argue, that the construction of "nature" served as vehicle for a major political and social transformation of this former poorhouse of Europe.

In the early nineties, we conducted fieldwork in the district of Odemira, and ever since we closely observed the process of "ecologization" of this coastal area. We understand ecologization as both a scientific and political process, which goes beyond the mere conservation of a natural landscape. In the aftermath of the 1974 revolution, this area was famous for land occupations by formerly landless workers. Simultaneously with Portugal's entrance into the European Union, the cooperatives went into decline and environmental NGOs, European conservation strategies such as Natura 2000 and "greened" national elites gained interest in this area. "Nature" became a contested entity, which served in various ways to support (trans)national environmental, but also economic and political interests. We will discuss this greening of this coast in the southwest of Portugal in terms of the Europeanization and globalization of a formerly forgotten landscape.

"The future of our children": competing moralities in an environmental conflict

Author: Gisela Welz (Goethe University Frankfurt)  email
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Short Abstract

For the past two decades, the future of the Akamas peninsula on the Western coast of Cyprus has been the focus of conflicts between local landowners, state government, powerful investors, environmentalists, and European agencies. The case study explores the competing sets of moralities which inform the actions and stances of the actors involved.

Long Abstract

In recent years, angry villagers from an area in the Western part of Cyprus have repeatedly made headlines in the Greek-Cypriot press when they mounted demonstrations and even threatened to go on hunger strikes. They protest against the government applying to the European Commission to establish a Natura 2000 site on the Akamas peninsula. This wilderness area on the Western coast of Cyprus is largely untouched by the tourism and real estate development boom that has been engulfing other parts of the island. For Akamas, a moratorium on building activity has been in force since the 1980s. Villagers, however, had been hoping that this restriction would be lifted and they, like landowners from neighboring communities, would also be able to profit economically from tourism and land sales.

What superficially may appear as a conflict between local landowners and state authorities also engages European agencies, transnational environmentalist organisations, and powerful investors of the real estate economy who are planning marinas, golf resorts and other projects. The Akamas case is a good example to elucidate the way in which competing sets of moralities inform the actions and stances of the social actors involved, and how their conflicting representations of the environment enlist local and translocal knowledge. The case study offers an opportunity to explore what European ethnology can contribute to an understanding of such conflicts, and also to engage with recent discussions within anthropology on how to address environmentalism as a cultural meaning system and as a cosmology of modern Western societies.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.