SESSION 1 | THE PRODUCTION AND NEOLIBERALISATION OF NATURE IN THE PAS. TOWARDS A PUBLIC POLITICAL ECOLOGY
Session Organiser: Noelia Garcia Rodriguez
This session proposal aims to critically reflect on the designation of natural protected areas (PAs), which constitutes one of the main governmental strategies for the conservation of nature. By considering conservation as a socioecological process with multiple dimensions (biological, ecological, political, economic, historical, cultural and social), our purpose is to gather different perspectives on the implementation of PAs. We invite papers to discuss the development of these policies worldwide and the neoliberalization of environmental governance, specifically in the context of Europe because of its specific characteristics. The conservation models are the result of the social conditions of production, the political management of global trends at local level and the attitudes and practices of involved actors; thereby the comparison of different conservation logics and the study of the effects of the designation of PAs in diverse contexts will permit us to identify the forms of management that respond better to challenges and people-park conflicts. Moreover, the analysis of the process of natural heritage making and the imaginaries that structure it will make a contribution to public political ecology and to participatory policies in heritage governance, which will provide us with future directions in nature protection.
This paper is part of an anthropology research project dedicated to studying the nature conservation models that have been implemented in three different Autonomous Communities in Spain in the last forty years. Our project is centered on six Spanish natural parks: Los Alcornocales Natural Park and El Estrecho Natural Park in Andalucia; Montseny Natural Park and Alt Pirineu Natural Park in Catalonia; Montgó Natural Park and Serra Calderona Natural Park in the Valencian Community. Our preliminary analysis based on interviews led us to detect the urgency of addressing the gender bias present in nature conservation, an objective that was not part of the project prior to this first approximation to the collected data. Therefore, the aim of this paper is to offer a comparative approach to the different models from a gender perspective. This will allow us to tackle topics such as the feminine presence in management positions, the evolution of the employment status of women in protected areas, as well as the gender conflicts linked with conservation. We acknowledge the importance of coherently addressing gender equality and its linkage to conservation policies in order to achieve better governance on protected areas.
Conservation policies in natural protected areas suffered a major blow after the imposition of neoliberal austerity in Spain following the 2008 financial crisis. Beginning in 2011, severe cut-backs in conservation budgets and personnal left many parks underfunded and understaffed. Many services, hitherto carried out by public agents, were externalized and sub-contracted to private agents with the idea of reducing public expense and to encourage private involvement in conservation. Despite the neoliberal attack on conservation policies as a burden to economic growth and job creation, parks were not delisted and conservation policies were not revoked; but certain de-regulations were successful in loosening the requirements for many new private activities, both green and un-green. However, there has been little interest from the private sector on making conservation their business. In this paper, I conceptualize these changes as nature up-for-grabbing: a contradictory process that follows the more general push of neoliberal conservation, but also fails in making protected nature a new commodity. The focus will be on the strategies followed by public agents, park managers and bureaucrats to create the conditions for such ambivalent results.
The creation of protected areas brings with it a change in imaginaries about these places. What before protection used to be a space with natural resources that could be and were exploited, then becomes natural heritage, that is, something that must be protected and bequeathed to future generations, and in which there are some uses that are permitted (such as tourism) and others that are not (such as a certain type of exploitation of natural resources). This change in imaginaries, which does not happen without conflict, is sometimes subsequent to protection, but in other cases it is prior to and even the basis for conservation, as in cases where there have been defence campaigns that have demanded the protection of a natural area and have achieved their goal. In this talk we will explore some examples of protected areas in Catalonia (Spain). The objectives are to analyse the processes that led to the protection of these natural spaces, to study the processes by which new imaginaries of these places as areas worthy of protection have been elaborated and to examine the social actors (local population, ecologists, scientists, politicians, etc.) that have played an important role in this elaboration.
The declaration of a protected area is not only the protection of a place with objective natural values. It is better understood as a political project which is always coupled with social conflict, as political ecology and environmental anthropology have repeatedly demonstrate. The same goes for the consolidation of conservationist departments and policies as a whole, but this issue has been rarely studied so far. Drawing on the case of Andalusia (Spain), some questions that this contribution aims to tackle are: How is a conservation policy established? What role do the political and administrative struggles inside the State play regarding that process? In our exploration, we will show how a precarious environmental body ruled by biologists carved out a place in the beginnings of the Andalusian self-government. In their quest to control conservation policy, they had to fight against two main obstacles inside administration. The first one was the ministry of territorial policy, dominated by geographers and architects, and with a strong focus on territorial planning. The second one had to do with the ministry of agriculture in the context of the development of an agrarian reform. The Andalusian case highlights the importance of analysing the state as a fragmentary and conflicting entity, particularly, regarding the consolidation of new policies, departments, and domains of expertise. Likewise, this case helps to understand the political uses of environmental policies and their dissimilar histories worldwide.
The creation of natural protected areas (PAs) is a socioecological phenomenon which involves environmental, cultural, economic, infraestructural, political changes… We invite to critically reflect on the connections between these processes and nature sports, specifically in the context of Spain (Europe). Nowadays, rural development in many mountainous areas is based mostly on nature tourism and outdoor recreation, while different social and institutional actors with asymmetrical political power compete to benefit from this situation. In this presentation the limitations and potential of these practices will be analyzed by examining conservation in relation to the commoditization of natural heritage, management strategies of sustainability, resident populations initiatives and the change in the imaginary of the landscape.