Research

Convivial Conservation

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We have initiated a new research programme investigating the potential for a transformative mode of conservation policy and practice we call convivial conservation. This is partly undertaken through a project (CONVIVA) funded by Belmont Forum and NORFACE. Publications exploring aspects of this research include the following:

In Press. Büscher, B. and R. Fletcher. The Conservation Revolution: Radical Ideas for Saving Nature beyond the Anthropocene. London: Verso Books.

2019. Oommen, M.A., R. Cooney, M. Ramesh, M. Archer, D. Brockington, B. Buscher, Fletcher, D.J.D. Natusch, A.T. Vanak, G. Webb and K. Shanker. “The Fatal Flaws of Compassionate Conservation.” Conservation Biology.

2019. “Towards Convivial Conservation.” (w/ Bram Büscher) Conservation and Society 17(3): 283-296.

2017. “Doing Whole Earth Justice: Reply to Cafaro et al.”(Second author w/ B. Büscher, D. Brockington, C. Sandbrook, B. Adams, L. Campbell, C. Corson, W. Dressler, R. Duffy, N. Gray, G. Holmes, A. Kelly, E. Lunstrum, M. Ramutsindela, K. Shanker). Oryx.

2017. “Half-Earth or Whole Earth? Radical Ideas for Conservation and their Implications.” (Second author w/ B. Büscher, D. Brockington, C. Sandbrook, B. Adams, L. Campbell, C. Corson, W. Dressler, R. Duffy, N. Gray, G. Holmes, A. Kelly, E. Lunstrum, M. Ramutsindela, K. Shanker) Oryx.

Tourism and Degrowth

Photo by Marc Morell

We have also recently begun a new project investigating responses to growing concern with a problem termed ‘overtourism’, that is, the rapidly increasing numbers and impacts of tourism development, particularly in ‘mature’ (i.e. longstanding)  destinations in Europe and beyond. Our research addresses the potential for ‘degrowth’ (reducing resource throughput and economic activity) to function as a guiding framework to address this problem. Publications related to this project include the following:

In Press. “Not Tourism-phobia but Urban-philia: Understanding Stakeholders’ Perceptions of Urban Touristification.” (w/ A. Blanco-Romero, M. Blázquez-Salom and M. Morell). Boletín de la Asociación de Geógrafos Españoles 83.

2019. “Tourism and Degrowth: An Emerging Agenda for Research and Praxis.” (w/ I. Murray Mas, A. Blanco-Romero and M. Blázquez-Salom) Journal of Sustainable Tourism, introduction to special issue on “Tourism and Degrowth.”

Cultural Dimensions of Ecotourism

For the past fifteen years, I have been conducting ongoing research concerning what I call the “cultural dimensions of ecotourism,” that is, the social forces that motivate a certain demographic – mostly white, upper-middle-class members of postindustrial societies – to pursue the types of activities (outdoor, rugged, physically challenging) characterizing ecotourism, and the cultural impact of this in the places where ecotourism is promoted as a sustainable development strategy.  This study began with my dissertation research, a multi-site analysis focused on whitewater tourism in California and southern Chile.  After moving to Costa Rica, I continued this research in the place that has been called “ecotourism’s poster child,” and have conducted a short stint of exploratory research in Colombia as well.  Aspects of this research have been published in the book and articles listed below.

2019. “Ecotourism after Nature: Anthropocene Tourism as a New Capitalist ‘Fix.’” Journal of Sustainable Tourism 27(4): 522-535, special issue on “Political Ecology of Tourism.”

Neoliberalismo y Turismo.” In Turistificación Global: Perspectivas Críticas en Turismo, edited by E. Cañada and I. Murray. Barcelona: Icaria.

2018. “Ecotourism.” In The Companion to Environmental Studies, edited by N. Castree, D. Hulme and Proctor. London: Routledge.

2016. “Authenticity and Contradictions of the ‘Ecotourism Script’: Global Marketing and Local Politics in Ghana” (Third author w/ R. van den Bremer, B. Büscher & S. Koot). Critical Arts.

2014. “Romancing the Wild: Cultural Dimensions of Ecotourism. Durham, NC: Duke Universty Press.

2012. “Contradictions in Tourism: The Promise and Pitfalls of Ecotourism as a Manifold Capitalist Fix.” (First author w/ Katja Neves) Environment and Society: Advances in Research 3(1):60-77.

2011. “Sustaining Tourism, Sustaining Capitalism? The Tourism Industry’s Role in Global Capitalist Expansion.” Tourism Geographies 13(3):443-461.

2011. “The Only Risk is Wanting to Stay: Mediating Risk in Colombian Tourism Development.” Recreation and Society in Africa, Asia & Latin America 1(2):7-30.

2010. “The Emperor’s New Adventure: Public Secrecy and the Paradox of Adventure Tourism.” Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 39(1):6-33.

2009. “Ecotourism Discourse: Challenging the Stakeholders Theory.” Journal of Ecotourism 8(3):269-285.

2008. “Living on the Edge: The Appeal of Risk Sports for the Professional Middle Class.” Sociology of Sport Journal 25(3):310-330.

2007. “Recreating the Vertical: Rock Climbing as Epic and Deep Eco-Play.” Second author with Allen Abramson. Anthropology Today 23(6):3-7.

2007. “Free Play: Transcendence as Liberation.” In Beyond Resistance: The Future of Freedom, Robert Fletcher, ed. New York: Nova Science Publishers.

Negotiating Conservation and Development in Costa Rica

For the past ten years, I have been investigating a growing trend whereby conservation policy and practice in Costa Rica – as throughout the world – increasingly emphasizes decentralized governance structures, public-private partnerships, and reliance on market mechanisms to incentivize conservation by attaching sufficient value to in situ natural resources that users will choose to preserve rather than extract them.  This trend is expressed, among other measures, in the growing popularity of ecotourism and payment for environmental services (whereby owners of forest parcels are paid to conserve them), as well as more recent mechanisms such as international carbon markets, environmental derivatives, species banking, and so on.  This process of neoliberalization is dramatically transforming the way conservation is practiced these days, and my research seeks to  understand these changes and their impacts on conservation outcomes.  Findings have been published in several places, as detailed below.

In Press. The Ecolaboratory: Environmental Governance and Economic Development in Costa Rica. Volume co-edited with B. Dowd-Uribe and G.A. Aistara. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona Press.

2018. “Protected Areas and Biodiversity Conservation.” Routledge Handbook of Latin American Development, J. Cupples, M. Palomino-Schalscha M. Prieto, eds. London: Routledge.

2016. “Carbon, Carbon Everywhere: How Climate Change is Transforming Conservation in Costa Rica.” In The Carbon Fix: Forest Carbon, Social Justice, and Environmental Governance, edited by S. Paladino and S. Fiske. London: Routledge.

2013. “Making ‘Peace with Nature’: Costa Rica’s Campaign for Climate Neutrality.” Climate Change Governance in the Developing World, D. Held, C. Roger and E. Nag, eds. London: Polity Press.

2013. “Between the Cattle and the Deep Blue Sea: The Janus Face of the Ecotourism-Extraction Nexus in Costa Rica.” In The Ecotourism-Extraction Nexus: Political Economies and Rural Realities of (un)Comfortable Bedfellows. B. Büscher and V. Davidov, eds. London: Routledge.

2012. “Using the Master’s Tools? Neoliberal Conservation and the Evasion of Inequality.” Development and Change 43(1):295-317.

2012. “Market Mechanism or Subsidy in Disguise? Governing Payment for Environmental Services in Costa Rica.” (First author w/ J. Breitling). Geoforum 43:402-411.

2010. “Neoliberal Environmentality: Towards a Poststructuralist Political Ecology of the Conservation Debate.” Conservation and Society 8(3):171-181.

2010. “When Environmental Issues Collide: Climate Change and the Shifting Political Ecology of Hydroelectric Power.” Peace & Conflict Review 5(1):14-30.

2009. “Against Wilderness.” Green Theory & Praxis: The Journal of Ecopedagogy 5(1):169-179.

 

Neoliberalization of Environmental Governance

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Concurrent with my ecotourism research, for the part 15 years I have also been investigating a more general trend whereby environmental governance around the world is increasingly subject to forms of market discipline commonly termed neoliberalization. This study has been conducted via field research in Costa Rica and elsewhere as well as through investigation of policy discussions in international meetings. Aspects of this project have been published in the following places.

2019. “Diverse Ecologies: Mapping Complexity in Environmental Governance.” Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space, special issue on “Environmentality.”

2019. “On Exactitude in Social Science: A Multi-Dimensional Proposal for Investigating Articulated Neoliberalization and its ‘Alternatives.’” ephemera 19(3): 541-566, special issue on “Peak Neoliberalism.”

2018. Neoliberalism in Denial in Actor-Oriented PES Research? A Rejoinder to Van Hecken et al. (2018) and a Call for Justice.” (w/ Bram Büscher) Ecological Economics 156: 420-423.

2018. Natural Capital Must Be Defended: Green Growth as Neoliberal Biopolitics” (First author w/ Dresslerm Anderson and Büscher). Journal of Peasant Studies.

2018. “Value from Ruin? Governing Speculative Conservation in Ruptured Landscapes” (seocnd author w/ W. Dressler and M. Fabinyi). TRANS 6(1): 73-99.

2018. “Under Pressure: Conceptualizing Political Ecologies of ‘Green Wars.’” (Second author w/ B. Büscher). Conservation & Society, introduction to special issue on “Political Ecologies of ‘Green Wars.’”

2018. “License to Kill: Contesting the Legitimacy of Green Violence.” Conservation and Society, special issue on “Political Ecologies of ‘Green Wars.’”

2017. “Environmentality Unbound: Multiple Governmentalities in Environmental Politics.” Geoforum 85: 311-315.

2017. “Decoupling: A Key Fantasy of the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda.” (First author w/ C. Rammelt) Globalizations 14(3): 450-467.

2017. “Destructive Creation: Capital Accumulation and the Structural Violence of Tourism.” (Second author w/ B. Büscher) Journal of Sustainable Tourism 25(5): 651-667.

2017. “The PES Conceit: Revisiting the Relationship between Payments for Environmental Services and Neoliberal Conservation.” (First author w/ Bram Büscher) Ecological Economics 132: 224-231.

2017. “Gaming Conservation: Nature 2.0 Confronts Nature-Deficit Disorder.” Geoforum 79: 153-162.

2017. “Debating REDD+ and its Implications: Reply to Angelsen et al. (First author w/ W. Dressler, B. Büscher and Z. Anderson). Conservation Biology 31(3): 721-723.

2016. “Questioning REDD+ and the Future of Market-Based Conservation.” (First author with W. Dressler, B. Büscher and Z. Anderson). Conservation Biology 30(3): 673-675.

2016. “Neoliberalism and Environmental Education.” In Encyclopedia of Educational Philosophy and Theory, edited by M. Peters. New York: Springer.

2015. “Accumulation by Conservation.” (Second author w/ B. Büscher) New Political Economy 20(2): 273-298.

2015. “NatureTM Inc. Redux: Towards a Dialectic of Logics and Excess.” (Third author w/ B. Büscher and W. Dressler) Environment and Planning A 47(11): 2404-2408, special symposium on NatureTM Inc.: Environmental Conservation in the Neoliberal Age.

2015. “NatureTM Inc.: Nature as Neoliberal Capitalist Imaginary.” (First author with Wolfram Dressler and Bram Büscher) In Handbook of Political Ecology, R.L. Bryant, ed. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar.

2014. NatureTM Inc.: Environmental Conservation in the Neoliberal Age. Volume co-edited with Bram Büscher and Wolfram Dressler. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona Press.

2014. “Taking the Chocolate Laxative: Why Neoliberal Conservation ‘Fails Forward.’” In NatureTM Inc.: Environmental Conservation in the Neoliberal Age, B. Büscher, W. Dressler, and R. Fletcher, eds. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona Press.

2014. “Introduction: NatureTM: The New Frontiers of Environmental Conservation” (First author w/ B. Büscher and W. Dressler) In NatureTM Inc.: Environmental Conservation in the Neoliberal Age, B. Büscher, W. Dressler, and R. Fletcher, eds. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona Press.

2014. “Conclusion: The Limits of NatureTM Inc. and the Search for Vital Alternatives.” (Third author w/ W. Dressler and B. Büscher) In NatureTM Inc.: Environmental Conservation in the Neoliberal Age, B. Büscher, W. Dressler, and R. Fletcher, eds. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona Press.

2014. “Orchestrating Consent: Post-politics and Intensification of NatureTM Inc. at the 2012 World Conservation Congress.” Conservation and Society 12(3): 329-342.

2012. “Capitalizing on Chaos: Climate Change and Disaster Capitalism.” Ephemera12(1/2):97-112.

2012. “Using the Master’s Tools? Neoliberal Conservation and the Evasion of Inequality.” Development and Change 43(1):295-317.

2012. “Market Mechanism or Subsidy in Disguise? Governing Payment for Environmental Services in Costa Rica.” (First author w/ J. Breitling). Geoforum 43:402-411.

2011. “Sustaining Tourism, Sustaining Capitalism? The Tourism Industry’s Role in Global Capitalist Expansion.” Tourism Geographies 13(3):443-461.

2010. “Neoliberal Environmentality: Towards a Poststructuralist Political Ecology of the Conservation Debate.” Conservation and Society 8(3):171-181.

 

Environmental Resistance and Social Movements

An ongoing side interest of mine explores the motivation for and impact of resistance and social movements addressing environmental issues.  This began with my Master’s research, which sought to understand why indigenous Pewenche in southern Chile reacted to differently to the prospect of displacement by a hydroelectric dam, with some enthusiastically embracing resettlement while others fiercely resisted.  This led to an offer to put together an edited volume charting the future of resistance studies, which had become somewhat stagnant in recent years.  I continue to address this theme in my current research by exploring growing opposition to a major new round of big dam construction currently underway around the world.  For details of all this, please see the following publications.

2018. “License to Kill: Contesting the Legitimacy of Green Violence.” Conservation and Society, special issue on “Political Ecologies of ‘Green Wars.’”

2010. “When Environmental Issues Collide: Climate Change and the Shifting Political Ecology of Hydroelectric Power.” Peace & Conflict Review 5(1):14-30.

2007. Editor. Beyond Resistance: The Future of Freedom. New York: Nova Science Publishers.

2007. “Introduction: Beyond Resistance?” In Beyond Resistance: The Future of Freedom, Robert Fletcher, ed. New York: Nova Science Publishers.

2007. “Free Play: Transcendence as Liberation.” In Beyond Resistance: The Future of Freedom, Robert Fletcher, ed. New York: Nova Science Publishers.

2001. “What are We Fighting For?: Rethinking Resistance in a Pewenche Community in Chile.” The Journal of Peasant Studies 28(3):36-67.

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