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Contested Nature

Promoting International Biodiversity with Social Justice in the Twenty-first Century

Steven R. Brechin, Crystal L. Fortwangler, Peter R. Wilshusen

Publication Year: 2003

How can the international conservation movement protect biological diversity, while at the same time safeguarding the rights and fulfilling the needs of people, particularly the poor? Contested Nature argues that to be successful in the long-term, social justice and biological conservation must go hand in hand. The protection of nature is a complex social enterprise, and much more a process of politics, and of human organization, than ecology. Although this political complexity is recognized by practitioners, it rarely enters into the problem analyses that inform conservation policy. Structured around conceptual chapters and supporting case studies that examine the politics of conservation in specific contexts, the book shows that pursuing social justice enhances biodiversity conservation rather than diminishing it, and that the fate of local peoples and that of conservation are completely intertwined.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Title Page

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pp. v-viii

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pp. ix-xiv

In 1991, Patrick C. West and I edited a well-received volume on the social dimensions related to international biodiversity conservation entitled, Resident People and National Parks (University of Arizona Press). It was an early attempt to highlight the social considerations and consequences of nature protection activities throughout the world, including some of its darker tendencies. Since that book was released,...

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pp. xv-xvi

There are too many individuals and organizations to thank properly for helping us bring this book to completion, but we must mention a few. Our colleagues at the School of Natural Resources & Environment, the University of Michigan provided a stimulating atmosphere for this work. Here we must recognize...

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1. Contested Nature: Conservation and Development at the Turn of the Twenty-first Century

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pp. 1-22

During the second half of the twentieth century, the world witnessed the emergence of a global environmental movement dedicated, among other things, to curbing unprecedented rates of species loss and habitat destruction. Now at the beginning of the twenty-first century, we still face an alarming downturn in the diversity of life found on the planet in spite of key gains in policy development, political participation, financial support, and program implementation. The need to act decisively...

Part I: Politics, Power, and Social Justice in Biodiversity Conservation

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2. The Winding Road: Incorporating Social Justice and Human Rights into Protected Area Policies

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pp. 25-40

Where do we stand in terms of achieving conservation with a “human face” (Bell 1987)? Some protected areas are co-managed by communities, conservationists, and governments to safeguard biodiversity and incorporate the elements of social justice (Western et al 1994; Stevens 1997a).1 And there...

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3. Exploring the Political Contours of Conservation: A Conceptual View of Power in Practice

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pp. 41-57

This chapter explores the multiple dimensions of power. This is essential if one is to better understand the contested nature of biodiversity conservation in “developing” regions around the globe. By focusing...

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4. Wandering Boundaries and Illegal Residents: The Political Ecology of Protected Area Deforestation in South Sumatra Indonesia from 1979 to 1992

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pp. 59-71

In this chapter, I use a political ecology approach to explore political barriers to effective protected area management in Indonesia. Political ecology attempts to capture multiple layers of complexity in explaining environmental degradation and the politics of resource access and control. This is...

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5. Territory, Nature, and Culture: Negotiating the Boundaries of Biodiversity Conservation in Colombia’s Pacific Coastal Region

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pp. 73-88

Colombia is among the small group of countries that have tropical regions considered to be “megadiversity” areas. The Chocó biogeographic region, which comprises the country’s Pacific coastal plain, falls under this category as one of the world’s most biologically diverse zones. It features...

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6. Unmasking the “Local”: Gender, Community, and the Politics of Community-Based Rural Ecotourism in Belize

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pp. 89-101

Community-based conservation has emerged over the last decade in response to critiques that strategies for environmental protection have been developed at the expense of concern for people, especially historically marginalized peoples or the “dispossessed.” The rationale for envisioning local communities as partners in conservation rather than as in the past as passive recipients of the latters’ design, builds on the assumptions of integrated conservation and development programs (ICDPs). The goal...

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7. The Political Economy of Ecotourism: Pendjari National Park and Ecotourism Concentration in Northern Benin

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pp. 103-115

Ecotourism is believed to be the fastest growing type of tourism (Ecotourism Society 1998).1 Many have come to view it as a means of reconciling the conflicts between the needs for protected area conservation and the pressing needs of local people. While...

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8. Privatizing Conservation

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pp. 117-135

Mounting evidence suggests that current approaches to biodiversity protection are more difficult and less successful than was originally hoped (Kramer et al. 1997; Brandon et al. 1998; Terborgh et al. 2002). The struggle for solutions has led to new approaches and conservation partnerships, many of them involving the private sector (Endicott 1993; McNeely 1995; Gustanski and Squires 2000). Although...

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9. The Political Ecology of Bioprospecting in Amazonian Ecuador: History, Political Economy, and Knowledge

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pp. 137-155

Bioprospecting—the attempt to identify and eventually commercialize potentially valuable genetic and biochemical resources—is not a new activity.1 Transnational, commercial flows of medicinal plants date back to the sixteenth century (Ortiz Crespo 1995). What is new about the present transnational resurgence2 in bioprospecting is that it is driven primarily by four interlocking factors:3 (1) global, market-based economic...

Part II: Institutions, Organizations, and Participatory Processes: Conceptual Tools for Constructing Biodiversity Conservation with Social Justice

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10. Crafting Conservation Globally and Locally: Complex Organizations and Governance Regimes

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pp. 159-182

The array of organizations and institutions typically engaged in promoting biodiversity conservation make concerted action a highly complex undertaking. A brief list would include international conservation nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) such as the World Wildlife Fund (WWF),The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Conservation International (CI), and the World Conservation Union (IUCN). Development agencies...

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11. The Regional Approach in Northern Madagascar: Moving Beyond Integrated Conservation and Development

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pp. 183-194

The year 1997 marked the beginning of the second five-year phase of Madagascar’s environmental plan. Along with a new funding cycle came new policies, practices, and philosophies of conservation and development. The government of Madagascar, along with the international donor community, embraced new structural arrangements meant to address similar conservation and development goals as the first phase, but in more sustainable and comprehensive ways. The ...

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12. Scaling Up from the Grassroots: NGO Networks and the Challenges of Organizational Maintenance in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula

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pp. 195-215

Most discussions of community-based conservation emphasize the importance of providing incentives for ecologically beneficial local development but tend to overlook the importance of strong organizational arrangements in sustaining these activities over the long term. Effective organizing for conservation and development can be particularly challenging in contexts characterized by authoritarian rule within both rural agrarian communities and the ranks of state agencies. Mexico...

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13. Your Park, My Poverty: Using Impact Assessment to Counter the Displacement Effects of Environmental Greenlining

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pp. 217-229

It is axiomatic that protected areas come with social benefits and social costs. Social impact assessment (SIA), a now familiar way of cross-referencing these benefits and costs in hopes of better public policy,1 is particularly relevant when costs include involuntary human displacement. Hard as it is for some to imagine protected areas as anything but benign, their expansion should be no more immune to SIA than other large infrastructure projects and public works that activate social and environmental impact reviews (Rao and Geisler 1990; Geisler 1993). SIA applied to...

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14. The Challenges and Rewards of Community-Based Coastal Resources Management: San Salvador Island, Philippines

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pp. 231-249

The residents of San Salvador Island, off the coast of Masinloc, Zambales, in the Philippines, face challenges typical of fishing communities in the Philippines. Lack of awareness and poverty have encouraged fishers to use unsound fishing methods such as explosives, sodium cyanide, and fine-mesh nets. Swidden upland agriculture a...

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15. The Road Less Traveled: Toward Nature Protection with Social Justice

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pp. 251-270

The analysis that we present in this volume points to a critically important gap in current debates on the core approaches of international biodiversity conservation. Whereas the majority of analyses focus on objectives (the “what”), we find that many discussions fail to consider comprehensively the social and political processes by which conservation...

Works Cited

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pp. 271-309

List of Contributors

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pp. 311-313


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pp. 315-321

E-ISBN-13: 9780791486542
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791457757
Print-ISBN-10: 0791457753

Page Count: 322
Illustrations: 12 tables, 2 figures
Publication Year: 2003

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Protected areas -- Social aspects -- Developing countries.
  • Protected areas -- Political aspects -- Developing countries.
  • Biodiversity conservation -- Social aspects -- Developing countries.
  • Biodiversity conservation -- Political aspects -- Developing countries.
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