Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Utilitarian vs. "deep green" views of Nature.

In the book "Complexities: Social studies of Knowledge Practices" Charis Thompson writes an interesting chapter about how scientist's differing views on the value of nature, in this case elephants, shaped the policy prescriptions they espoused on how to deal with the problem of "elephant compression" i.e. too many elephants in too small a place.

In Korea coastal and marine scientists, at least when advising on government policy, are still almost universally utilitarian in their view of nature. National Parks are promoted as tourism opportunities and in any case their boundaries do not stop local communities from extracting natural resources within them. Dadohae National Marine Park is teeming with aquacultural, mostly abalone, farms. In order to clean up marine debris, both from the farms and other maritime activities, MOMAF paid marine resource users to pick it up, though one report on the project's outcomes noted that it had made little progress in persuading them that there was anything inherently wrong with throwing trash into the sea.
One point that Thompson tried to make was that appeals to science cannot resolve management problems and that complex relationships existent between the political, scientific, and cultural realities that can not be neatly disentangled and prioritized.
Therefore the reasons why, and our responses to, the fact that many Korean marine resource users do not see anything inherently wrong with throwing trash into the ocean, or conversely, the fact that most Westerners do, must be approached with an awareness of how political, cultural, and scientific understandings have interacted with each other in specific places and times.

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