Nature Grabbing or Successful Practices for Nature Conservation? Blurred Boundaries in Chilean Protected Areas

Friday, July 18, 2014: 4:30 PM
Room: F202
Oral Presentation
Constanza PARRA , University of Groningen, Netherlands
Literature on protected areas (PAs) constantly reanimates an ancient debate that opposes conservationist scholars, considering the world history of PAs, as a testimony of human progress, to critical voices counting this history as a record of failure (Brockington et al. 2008; Stolton, Dudley 2010). For, as several social scientists have emphasized, conservation regulation has in many cases been part of coercive colonial strategies and disempowerment of indigenous groups. More recently, contributions on “nature grabbing” have joined the debate, revealing the processes through which property rights and control over natural resources are transferred from ‘poor’ to powerful hands (Fairhead et al. 2012).

Based on case-study research in two Chilean regions, the Atacama Dessert and Green Patagonia, this paper examines the shades of grey between what may be acknowledged either as a success or a failure in the contemporary governance of PAs. This paper argues that there is a need for examining PAs and their governance by using more sophisticated analytical frameworks that help to capture the social complexities in which these areas for nature conservation are embedded and reproduced.

This paper is structured in five parts. Part one combines literature on socio-ecological systems, environmental sociology and political ecology to discuss critical social sustainability issues in the contemporary governance of PAs. Elaborating on these theories, part two offers an analytical framework drawing attention to the social embeddedness of PAs, including politics and power dynamics, economic forces, institutional transformations, as well as culture, discourses, values and justice in local histories. Section three discusses conservation policies and land uses in a neoliberal country that has allowed a wide proliferation of private PAs. Section four zooms into two Chilean regions and the remaking of their PAs histories. The paper concludes with reflections on the blurred boundaries between successful conservation and nature grabbing leading to injustice.