Accepted Paper:

Nature conservation and the ecology of chaos  


Liviu Mantescu (Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies )

Paper short abstract:

“If nature dies because we enter it, then the only way to save nature is to kill ourselves.” (William Cronon, The Trouble with Wilderness) This paper addresses the political implications of systems ecology for EU’s nature conservation policies and calls attention upon the ‘new ecology’ paradigm (also known as ‘the ecology of chaos’, Worster 1990).

Paper long abstract:

While systems ecology is based on the positivist assumption that nature tends toward equilibrium and homeostasis, the 'new ecology' paradigm emphasizes the instability, disequilibria and chaotic fluctuations both "natural" and human-impacted (Zimmerer 1994). EU policies for nature conservation represent the climax of today's institutionalization of biodiversity value thorough rigorous calculi of costs and benefits, which would be inconceivable outside understanding nature as an equilibrium model. As a consequence, politics incorporating the notion of nature start form the assumptions that (1) nature is predictable, (2) the carrying capacity can be accurately measured as well as the adaptation capacity of human practices, (3) biological diversity and temporal stability are inextricable and determinate. The paper will address first how these dimensions are represented in EU polices for nature conservation and what are the consequences on the ground as reflected in altering local practices of land use and access to natural resources. Comparative examples of rural community-based institutions that have historically managed highlands commons in Romania and Spain will be used in this regard. In the end the paper will tackle with the question of why, despite its relative mature constitution, new ecology paradigm is invisible in the green politics agendas.

Panel W089
Peur bleue, angoisses vertes : inquiétudes et incertitudes autour des objets naturels/ Blue funk, green anguishes: disquiet and uncertainty about natural objects (FR-EN)