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Turner , Scenarios for integrated river catchment and coastal zone management , Regional Environmental Change , vol. Mahmoud , A formal framework for scenario development in support of environmental decision-making. Neal and A. Heathwaite , Nutrient mobility within river basins: a European perspective , Journal of Hydrology , vol.

Neill, B. Pulver, S. Vandeveer, S. Whether identifying themselves as political ecologists, STS scholars, or neither, all contributors to this volume are actively working on theoretically informed empirical work that seeks to cross these conventional boundaries. The explanatory focus was the dialectical relationship between social and environmental change with a particular emphasis on the connection between poverty and environmental mismanagement.

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Manual Knowing Nature: Conversations at the Intersection of Political Ecology and Science Studies

Despite the diversity of topics and approaches under its umbrella, political ecology 6 mar a j. A commitment to incorporating understandings of the biophysical processes that underlie environmental change and the availability of natural resources 2. An emphasis on understanding environmental politics as geographically and historically situated i.

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A major contribution of early political ecology was the recognition that the prospect for land degradation was not predictable simply from the level of human demand on natural resources human population, livestock population, consumption, wealth, etc. Ecological response to resource extraction exhibits spatial heterogeneity, nonlinearities, and threshold effects, which require the political ecologist to engage seriously with ecological dynamics in order to understand society-nature relations.

Moreover, the nature, rate, and spatial extent of ecological change are seen to matter in the unfolding politics surrounding the environment. Walker Moore ; Peluso and Watts ; Schroeder b. Ecological processes are shaped by geographic and historical context. The reestablishment of a forest, the response of grasslands to grazing, and the mainint ro duct io n 7 tenance of biodiversity all are strongly dependent on the ecological history and the surrounding landscape matrix of any site. Along with this commitment to context is the ambition to relate local processes to broader social and ecological changes.

The common emphasis of seeking causal connections between global or regional changes to local resource-use decisions is one of the most appealing and ambitious characteristics of political ecology. While the role of markets as intermediate networks has been a major emphasis in political ecology work, there is a growing interest in the global circulation of knowledge and its impact on local society-environment relations e.

Scholars taking a political ecology or related approach have also contributed to nuanced 8 mar a j. Moore ; Mitchell ; J. Scott The links between political-economic subordination, vulnerability, and environmental mismanagement have remained major foci of political-ecological analysis. Political and cultural ecologists have sought to illuminate, translate, and in some cases champion local understandings of the environment Carney ; Escobar ; Fairhead and Scoones ; D. Moore ; Peluso ; Sundberg ; Zerner Moreover, new trends in international conservation and development emphasizing participation and decentralization of resource management authority have made the politics surrounding divergent knowledge claims more obvious e.

These trends have led to two impulses to de-essentialize environmental knowledges through more in-depth, critical engagements with knowledge production and circulation. Social power that shapes on-the-ground impacts operates in the realms of knowledge production and circulation as well often far from the place of application. Therefore, to fully analyze environmental politics, political ecologists need to not see divergent knowledge claims as the starting point for politics but instead seek to understand how these knowledge claims are constructed and travel to the places of interest.

The traditional tools of political ecologists are best suited for analyzing how the applications of knowledge, markets, capital, labor, and political power in particular contexts affect local society-environment relations. These tools are most appropriate for understanding the construction of landscapes and the circulation of commodities and wealth through markets, and power and authority through governance structures.

Political ecologists have therefore increasingly looked toward STS scholarship for ways to de-essentialize environmental knowledges through the adoption of tools and concepts that allow more productive analysis of the production and circulation of these knowledges. These new areas of inquiry will be discussed more fully after a brief review of STS scholarship as it relates to environmental politics.

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This has been highlighted in different ways by different spheres of STS. Lynch , ; Pickering ; as related to epistemic cultures Knorr-Cetina ; as a part of cultural style and accepted norms Traweek ; and through long-distance networks of people, animals, objects, and institutions Callon ; Latour , , ANT provides a framework for analyzing the production of knowledge as occurring through relational networks, where objects e.

One could, as such, follow the creation of facts along such relational networks. ANT has proved useful for encouraging an investigation into the role of nonhuman objects including animals in the creation of knowledge about nature, and for articulating the complex twists and turns that knowledge creation takes along interrelated networks. It has, however, also been critiqued in many ways, even from within STS see Law Critics point to the simplistic portrayal of all objects as equal agents in knowledge construction, and to the lack of attention to larger social and political relations i.

A more thorough interplay of political ecology and STS has the potential for creating a more complex topography of power-laden networks imbued with social relations that are vertical and horizontal in nature see discussion below. The notion of boundary objects has been helpful in understanding how certain concepts or technologies travel across diverse settings, enabling negotiation.

The boundary-object concept has expanded to include boundary institutions or organizations and boundary infrastructures—terms used to discuss objects and embedded institutions that cross larger scales than boundary objects might. When a standardized package gains momentum, it can seem like the only game in town e. This new vocabulary rejects traditional boundaries and disrupts ontologies.

Yet other work in STS has focused on boundaries—how they are policed on the one hand i. This language has become particularly useful in not giving primacy to either nature or society, either science or policy, as science studies has become more engaged with policy debates, as elaborated on below. In the process, several important arguments and areas of inquiry have arisen, all which intersect and overlap with many of the questions being addressed by political ecologists. Expertise is awarded, challenged, and contested differently in different contexts.

Knowledge travels circulates through translations, packaging, and networks. Science and society are co-produced. Knowledge is inherently political. Despite these contributions, the relevance of STS work to the myriad of contexts through which environmental knowledge circulates and is shaped would be enhanced through greater engagement with political ecology.


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The need to direct attention to different social contexts where environmental knowledge is continuously produced through its application, packaging, and circulation has been recognized by a number of STS scholars. For example, Watson-Verran and Turnbull call on STS to move beyond a focus on production, to address the politics inherent in the circulation and application of Western science as a privileged knowledge system. They and others e. The exception to this is feminist STS scholarship, which has been invaluable in uncovering the various ways in which knowledge production, application, and circulation occurs in a world divided in various ways along lines of gender, class, ethnicity, and power.

As illustrated in the case described at the outset of this chapter, multiple knowledge claims are made about natural resources in different places around the world.