Environmental stewardship is a valuable and holistic concept for guiding productive and sustained relationships with the environment. A group of colleagues and I have just published a new open access paper in the journal Environmental Management titled: “Environmental Stewardship: A conceptual review and analytical framework“. In this paper, we define local environmental stewardship as “the actions taken by individuals, groups or networks of actors, with various motivations and levels of capacity, to protect, care for or responsibly use the environment in pursuit of environmental and/or social outcomes in diverse social–ecological contexts.” We review the literature to provide a framework to guide analysis of local environmental stewardship initiatives in diverse contexts and situations.
Abstract: There has been increasing attention to and investment in local environmental stewardship in conservation and environmental management policies and programs globally. Yet environmental stewardship has not received adequate conceptual attention. Establishing a clear definition and comprehensive analytical framework could strengthen our ability to understand the factors that lead to the success or failure of environmental stewardship in different contexts and how to most effectively support and enable local efforts. Here we propose such a definition and framework. First, we define local environmental stewardship as the actions taken by individuals, groups or networks of actors, with various motivations and levels of capacity, to protect, care for or responsibly use the environment in pursuit of environmental and/or social outcomes in diverse social–ecological contexts. Next, drawing from a review of the environmental stewardship, management and governance literatures, we unpack the elements of this definition to develop an analytical framework that can facilitate research on local environmental stewardship. Finally, we discuss potential interventions and leverage points for promoting or supporting local stewardship and future applications of the framework to guide descriptive, evaluative, prescriptive or systematic analysis of environmental stewardship. Further application of this framework in diverse environmental and social contexts is recommended to refine the elements and develop insights that will guide and improve the outcomes of environmental stewardship initiatives and investments. Ultimately, our aim is to raise the profile of environmental stewardship as a valuable and holistic concept for guiding productive and sustained relationships with the environment.
Concerns about the negative consequences of conservation for local people have prompted attention toward how to address the social impacts of different conservation projects, programs, and policies. Inevitably, when actions are taken to protect or manage the environment this will produce a suite of both positive and negative social impacts for local communities and resource users. Thus, a challenge for conservation and environmental decision-makers and managers is maximizing social benefits while minimizing negative burdens across social, economic, cultural, health, and governance spheres of human well-being. The last decade has seen significant advances in both the methods and the metrics for understanding how conservation and environmental management impact human well-being. There has also been increased uptake in socio-economic monitoring programs in conservation organizations and environmental agencies. Yet, little guidance exists on how to integrate the results of social impact monitoring back into conservation management and decision-making. We recommend that conservation organizations and environmental agencies take steps to better understand and address the social impacts of conservation and environmental management. This can be achieved by integrating key components of the adaptive social impact management (ASIM) cycle outlined below, and in a new paper published today in Conservation Biology, into decision-making and management processes**.
Take away messages:
Conservation and environmental management can produce both positive and negative social impacts for local communities and resource users. Thus it is necessary to understand and adaptively manage the social impacts of conservation over time. This will improve social outcomes, engender local support and increase the overall effectiveness of conservation.
Adaptive social impact management
Adaptive social impact management (ASIM) is “the ongoing and cyclical process of monitoring and adaptively managing the social impacts of an initiative through the following four stages: profiling, learning, planning and implementing.”
- Profiling – The cycle begins with defining the scope and social profile for the social impact management program. This involves identifying spatial boundaries, timelines, and available resources, as well as creating a basic profile of the social system under consideration.
- Learning – The second stage focuses on developing an understanding of the actual positive and negative social impacts of the project to date as well as how and why these impacts have occurred. It involves data collection, analysis, evaluation, and communication.
- Planning – During the third stage, managers and practitioners identify alternative courses of action and their respective potential impacts, deliberate and make decisions regarding which actions to take, and revise management policies and plans accordingly.
- Implementing – The final stage is where decisions are put into action to adapt conservation and management. Lessons learned are shared across sites and to managers and policy-makers to inform decisions, policies and programs.
For more information, please refer to:
- POLICY BRIEF: Managing the social impacts of conservation, October 2017
- PUBLICATION: Maery Kaplan-Hallam & Nathan J. Bennett (2017). Adaptive social impact management for conservation and environmental management. Conservation Biology. Link: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cobi.12985/full
Coastal communities are struggling with the complex social and ecological impacts of a growing global hunger for a seafood delicacy, according to a new study from the University of British Columbia.
“Soaring demand has spurred sea cucumber booms across the globe,” says lead author Mary Kaplan-Hallam, who conducted the research as a master’s student with the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability (IRES) at UBC.
“For many coastal communities, sea cucumber isn’t something that was harvested in the past. Fisheries emerged rapidly. Money, buyers and fishers from outside the community flooded in. This has also increased pressure on other already overfished resources.”
Sea cucumber can sell for hundreds–sometimes thousands–of dollars a pound. The “gold rush” style impacts of high-value fisheries exacerbate longer-term trends in already vulnerable communities, such as declines in traditional fish stocks, population increases, climate change and illegal fishing.
“These boom-and-bust cycles occur across a range of resource industries,” says co-author Nathan Bennett, a postdoctoral fellow at UBC. “What makes these fisheries so tricky is that they appear rapidly and often deplete local resources just as rapidly, leaving communities with little time to recover.”
The researchers based their findings on a case study of Río Lagartos, a fishing community on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. For the past 50 years, small-scale commercial fishing has been the dominant livelihood of the community.
The town’s first commercial sea cucumber permits were issued in 2013, a significant economic opportunity for fishers in the region. The leathery marine animals are a delicacy in many parts of Asia, and as stocks have depleted there, demand has rapidly depleted fisheries across the globe.
A host of new challenges emerged in Río Lagartos as the sea cucumbers attracted outside fishers, money and patrons, according to the researchers’ interviews with community members.
“Resource management, incomes, fisher health and safety, levels of social conflict and social cohesion in the community are all impacted,” says Kaplan-Hallam. “The potential financial rewards are also causing local fishers to take bigger risks as sea cucumber stocks are depleted and diving must occur further from shore, with dire health consequences.”
Unfortunately, say the authors, this isn’t an isolated situation.
“There are many examples around the world where elite global seafood markets–abalone, sea urchins, sharks–are undermining local sustainability,” says Bennett. “If we want to sustainably manage fisheries with coastal communities, we need a better understanding of how global seafood markets impact communities and how to manage these impacts quickly. Think of it like an epidemic: it requires a rapid response before it gets out of control.”
The study “Catching sea cucumber fever in coastal communities” is published in Global Environmental Change
The research was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, MITACS, the Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship program, and the Liber Ero Fellowship program.
A group of colleagues and I have just published an open access paper titled “An appeal for a code of conduct for marine conservation” in Marine Policy. In this paper, we propose that:
- Poor governance and social issues can jeopardize the legitimacy of, support for and long-term effectiveness of marine conservation.
- A comprehensive set of social standards is needed to provide a solid platform for conservation actions.
- This paper reviews key principles and identifies next steps in developing a code of conduct for marine conservation.
- The objectives of a code of conduct are to promote fair, just and accountable marine conservation.
- A code of conduct will enable marine conservation to be both socially acceptable and ecologically effective.
Abstract: Marine conservation actions are promoted to conserve natural values and support human wellbeing. Yet the quality of governance processes and the social consequences of some marine conservation initiatives have been the subject of critique and even human rights complaints. These types of governance and social issues may jeopardize the legitimacy of, support for and long-term effectiveness of marine conservation. Thus, we argue that a clearly articulated and comprehensive set of social standards – a code of conduct – is needed to guide marine conservation. In this paper, we draw on the results of an expert meeting and scoping review to present key principles that might be taken into account in a code of conduct, to propose a draft set of foundational elements for inclusion in a code of conduct, to discuss the benefits and challenges of such a document, and to propose next steps to develop and facilitate the uptake of a broadly applicable code of conduct within the marine conservation community. The objectives of developing such a code of conduct are to promote fair conservation governance and decision-making, socially just conservation actions and outcomes, and accountable conservation practitioners and organizations. The uptake and implementation of a code of conduct would enable marine conservation to be both socially acceptable and ecologically effective, thereby contributing to a truly sustainable ocean.
Press releases and coverage
- Code of conduct needed for ocean conservation, study says – Eureka Alert
- Does marine conservation need a “Hippocratic Oath”? – CBC
- Marine conservation must consider human rights – Nereus Program
Policy Brief: An appeal for a code of conduct for marine conservation (PDF LINK)
Reference: Bennett, N.J., Teh, L., Ota, Y., Christie, P., Ayers, A., Day, J.C., Franks, P., Gill, D., Gruby, R.L., Kittinger, J.N., Koehn, J.Z., Lewis, N., Parks, J., Vierros, M., Whitty, T.S., Wilhelm, A., Wright, K., Aburto, J.A., Finkbeiner, E.M., Gaymer, C.F., Govan, H., Gray, N., Jarvis, R.M., Kaplan-Hallam, M. & Satterfield, T. (2017). An appeal for a code of conduct for marine conservation. Marine Policy, 81, 411–418. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2017.03.035 [OPEN ACCESS]
A group of colleagues and I recently published an Open Access review paper in Biological Conservation titled “Conservation Social Science: Understanding and Integrating Human Dimensions to Improve Conservation“. It can be found here and more information follows below.
- A better understanding of the human dimensions of environmental issues can improve conservation.
- Yet there is a lack of awareness of the scope and uncertainty about the purpose of the conservation social sciences.
- We review 18 fields and identify 10 distinct contributions that the social sciences can make to conservation.
- This review paper provides a succinct reference for those wishing to engage with the conservation social sciences.
- Greater engagement with the social sciences will facilitate more legitimate, salient, robust and effective conservation.
It has long been claimed that a better understanding of human or social dimensions of environmental issues will improve conservation. The social sciences are one important means through which researchers and practitioners can attain that better understanding. Yet, a lack of awareness of the scope and uncertainty about the purpose of the conservation social sciences impedes the conservation community’s effective engagement with the human dimensions. This paper examines the scope and purpose of eighteen subfields of classic, interdisciplinary and applied conservation social sciences and articulates ten distinct contributions that the social sciences can make to understanding and improving conservation. In brief, the conservation social sciences can be valuable to conservation for descriptive, diagnostic, disruptive, reflexive, generative, innovative, or instrumental reasons. This review and supporting materials provides a succinct yet comprehensive reference for conservation scientists and practitioners. We contend that the social sciences can help facilitate conservation policies, actions and outcomes that are more legitimate, salient, robust and effective.
- Nathan J. Bennett, Robin Roth, Sarah C. Klain, Kai Chan, Patrick Christie, Douglas A. Clark, Georgina Cullman, Deborah Curran, Trevor J. Durbin, Graham Epstein, Alison Greenberg, Michael P Nelson, John Sandlos, Richard Stedman, Tara L Teel, Rebecca Thomas, Diogo Veríssimo, Carina Wyborn. Conservation social science: Understanding and integrating human dimensions to improve conservation. Biological Conservation, 2016; DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2016.10.006
I just published a co-authored Open Access article in the journal Conservation Biology titled “Mainstreaming the social sciences in conservation“. In this article, we define conservation social science, examine the barriers to uptake of the social sciences in conservation, and suggest practical steps that might be taken to overcome these barriers.
Bennett, N., Roth, R., Klain, S., Chan, K., Clark, D., Cullman, G., Epstein, G., Nelson, P., Stedman, R., Teel, T., Thomas, R., Wyborn, C., Currans, D., Greenberg, A., Sandlos, J & Verissimo, D. (2016). Mainstreaming the social sciences in conservation. Conservation Biology. Online, Open Access. DOI: 10.1111/cobi.12788
Despite broad recognition of the value of social sciences and increasingly vocal calls for better engagement with the human element of conservation, the conservation social sciences remain misunderstood and underutilized in practice. The conservation social sciences can provide unique and important contributions to society’s understanding of the relationships between humans and nature and to improving conservation practice and outcomes. There are 4 barriers – ideological, institutional, knowledge, and capacity – to meaningful integration of the social sciences into conservation. We provide practical guidance on overcoming these barriers to mainstream the social sciences in conservation science, practice, and policy. Broadly, we recommend fostering knowledge on the scope and contributions of the social sciences to conservation, including social scientists from the inception of interdisciplinary research projects, incorporating social science research and insights during all stages of conservation planning and implementation, building social science capacity at all scales in conservation organizations and agencies, and promoting engagement with the social sciences in and through global conservation policy-influencing organizations. Conservation social scientists, too, need to be willing to engage with natural science knowledge and to communicate insights and recommendations clearly. We urge the conservation community to move beyond superficial engagement with the conservation social sciences. A more inclusive and integrative conservation science – one that includes the natural and social sciences – will enable more ecologically effective and socially just conservation. Better collaboration among social scientists, natural scientists, practitioners, and policy makers will facilitate a renewed and more robust conservation. Mainstreaming the conservation social sciences will facilitate the uptake of the full range of insights and contributions from these fields into conservation policy and practice.
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