L3


Scientific and imagined narratives on biodiversity: Impossible solidarities? 
Convenors:
Isabelle Arpin (Irstea)
Florian Charvolin (CNRS)
David Dumoulin Kervran (Sorbonne Nouvelle University)
Elsa Faugere (INRA (French National Institute for Agricultural Research))
Send message to Convenors
Theme:
Sustainability in transition
Format:
Location:
C. Humanisticum AB 2.11
Sessions:
Thursday 18 September, 17:00-18:45, Friday 19 September, 10:30-12:15 (UTC+0)

Long Abstract

In the middle of the 1980s, biodiversity worked its way into the public's view as a major scientific and socio-political issue. Since then, it has taken centre stage in scientific and imagined narratives concerned with the environment. It has notably given rise to a plethora of international, national and local initiatives, both in political/administrative and scientific areas. The purpose of this track is to explore:

- the textual, administrative and cognitive effervescence surrounding the emergence of the notion of biodiversity (Convention on Biological Diversity, Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, Cartagena and Nagoya Protocols, revival in naturalist inventories, creation of protected areas, barcoding projects, etc.);

- the use of this notion by scientists, and more specifically by systematists/taxonomists, ecologists or, more recently, molecular biologists, in order to justify their research projects, as if the notion provided them with the ethical and moral arguments they need to pursue academic research;

- the (relative) indifference of citizens, and local, national or international economies that continue to prey on and destroy natural resources, even if they apply an environmental gloss to what they say.

The biodiversity message also lies in the imaginary that it channels, and the composite universe to which it provides access in the imagination of those studying or handling the notion. This track focuses on the building of such narratives and this imaginary dimension, both of which open up new ways to be linked to the world, and new solidarities between humans and non-humans.

The papers will be presented in the order shown and grouped 3-3 between sessions

Accepted papers:

Author:

Claire Waterton (Lancaster University)

Paper long abstract:

DNA Barcoding has been promoted since 2003 as a new, fast, digital genomics-based means of identifying natural species worldwide. Barcoding therefore overlaps extensively with the work of taxonomists, although the boundaries between taxonomists and barcoders are blurred in interesting ways. The fear that species are becoming extinct before they have ever been known fuels barcoders; and a key goal is to accelerate the pace by which humanity documents planetary biodiversity. In the rush to document species on earth barcoding is propelling qualitative and quantitiative changes in the collecting, organizing, analyzing, and archiving of biological specimens and biodiversity data. This paper will look in detail at some of those changes, paying attention to questions of equity and inequity embedded in the relations spawned by this new genomics-based environmental technoscience.

Author:

Tahani Nadim (Humboldt University Berlin )

Paper long abstract:

Biodiversity studies are increasingly relying on data-intensive techniques in their assessments and monitoring of organismal diversity on all scales, from gene to ecosystem. This paper discusses how biodiversity is done in these data practices and what versions of biodiversity become imaginable through them. It combines a methodological focus on practices (Mol 2003) with a concern for articulating new forms of the object "biodiversity" (Verran 2001). To this end, the paper examines two (recent) approaches for biodiversity assessment: the so-called "biodiversity soup" and remote sensing. The biodiversity soup describes a metagenomic method in which a sample of organisms is mashed together into the eponymous "soup", sequenced, and parsed into metabarcodes that allow taxonomic identification. Satellite-based earth observations, on the other hand, enable the detection of certain species assemblages and diversity patterns as well as the reconstruction of ecological communities through indirect parameters such as climate and habitat structure. Given the current urgency assigned to biodiversity-related matters, exemplified by the establishment of an intergovernmental platform for biodiversity (IPBES) and underlined by another dire Global Biodiversity Outlook (2014), there is pressure to develop ever more efficient means for assessing the status of biodiversity. Metabarcoding and remote sensing appear to satisfy requirements for fast, global data that are congruous with demands for "policy-relevant" knowledge. Based on observations and interviews with scientists, however, this paper proposes that metabarcoding and remote sensing involve data practices that can render different, less universalist and more imaginative versions of biodiversity.

Author:

Florian Charvolin (CNRS)

Paper long abstract:

The IPBES is a diplomatic initiative led by the united nations organization. its origin dates back from the beginning of the XXIst century. It focuses on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services as a discussion and negotiation level whose purpose is to set up rules for the international representation of these natural realities and mechanisms. Through the ethnography and semantic analysis of the discourse production of that level of negotiation, we have singled out a few operations of translations of data, like quantification, peer review, objectivation etc.; they are controversial and describe the flow of information between local knowledge and international arenas. These focal points of controversy are key moments, referring back to the level of the person, and the deterritorialisation and reterritorialisation of accounts on the surrounding world. They are grounded in processes both subjective and objective in the making; the paper will analyze the choices discussed for the IPBES setting, in order to regulate this data framing and flow linked to diplomatic stakes and concerns between contradictory solutions.

Authors:

Krzysztof NiedziaƂkowski (Polish Academy of Sciences)
Jouni Paavola (University of Leeds)

Paper long abstract:

Biodiversity conservation has become an important area of the European Union policymaking with its own legal and organisational framework based on Birds and Habitats Directives. The accession of the Central and Eastern European countries to the EU in mid-2000s involved adopting the EU rules in that respect and underlying discourses. This paper looks at the consequences of this process for nature conservation governance in the biggest of the new EU countries - Poland. Tracing developments in three long-term conflicts related to natural areas it is argued that biodiversity discourse and institutions considerably affected the way conflicts over nature are understood, played by actors involved, and, finally, resolved. The paper suggests that biodiversity conservation redefined what is naturally valuable and become much more space hungry increasing conflicts with infrastructure development. The former passive nature conservation, focused on remnants of undisturbed habitats, became more offensive to include patches to be re-naturalized and ecological corridors between core zones. In addition, the new discourse and EU rules that followed, rescaled the governance of biodiversity, shifting power to the EU and non-state actors who became directly involved in decision-making. While in conflicts between conservation and development, biodiversity discourse strengthened conservation interests, in a conflict, in which opposing groups advocated different concepts of biodiversity conservation, the impact of the new discourse was less pronounced. The paper also investigates the role of scientists in translating the dominant nature conservation paradigms into concrete policy goals.

Author:

David Dumoulin Kervran (Sorbonne Nouvelle University)

Paper long abstract:

How to characterize the specific situation of scientific practices, when performed in some non-exclusive places ? Current scientific expeditions of "Our Planet Reviewed" program are usually described as gathering of large international scientists team in some remote areas of southern countries in order to realize large scale specimens collections. Members of the expeditions and journalists use to isolate scientific practices trough boundary work, but the collection/sorting practices would not be possible without the activation of broader social networks. Crucial to the realization of such big and complex gathering, are the quality of relations that members have with local providers: landowners, political-spiritual authorities, pilots and workers, and large array of others specialized sailors useful for some logistic purpose.

Organizers of the expeditions try to construct a sort of in-situ laboratory isolated from the local society. The two examples have strong similarities because they are part of the same umbrella program "Our Planet Reviewed", but they differ with regard to the relation with people living in the place. Madagascar expedition is a malacologist one, realized in 2010 and represent a quasi "off shore" situation where relation with local population have been complexes and unexpected but where foreigners were very isolated. On the other hand, Papua New Guini, focused on entomology, and occurred in 2012, has been co-organized with a center of local parataxonomists and has employed a lot workers of different villages. Two different way of doing field science emerge form this scrutinizing of place-based social relations.

Author:

Elsa Faugere (INRA (French National Institute for Agricultural Research))

Paper long abstract:

Biologists consider the 6th species extinction crisis that we are currently undergoing as a major environmental crisis. To fight against the erosion of biodiversity and produce scientific knowledge about species before they disappear, French biologists of the National Museum of Natural History of Paris and of the NGO Pro-Natura International, have been running naturalist expeditions of unprecedented size in countries belonging to the southern hemisphere since the 2000s (Vanuatu, Madagascar, Mozambique, Papua New Guinea). This presentation is based on the ethnographic study of these expeditions in which we have studied sciences in society in highly asymmetrical North-South relations. In this paper, I will focus on the moral and affective dimensions of the naturalist field sciences involved in those biodiversity surveys.