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Virtualism, Governance and Practice

Virtualism, Governance and Practice: Vision and Execution in Environmental Conservation

James G. Carrier
Paige West
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Virtualism, Governance and Practice
    Book Description:

    Many people investigating the operation of large-scale environmentalist organizations see signs of power, knowledge and governance in their policies and projects. This collection indicates that such an analysis appears to be justified from one perspective, but not from another. The chapters in this collection show that the critics, concerned with the power of these organizations to impose their policies in different parts of the world, appear justified when we look at environmentalist visions and at organizational policies and programs. However, they are much less justified when we look at the practical operation of such organizations and their ability to generate and carry out projects intended to reshape the world.

    eISBN: 978-1-84545-960-4
    Subjects: Anthropology, Environmental Science, Geography

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures, Tables and Boxes
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. viii-x)
    James G. Carrier and Paige West
  5. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-23)
    James G. Carrier and Paige West

    Since the middle of the twentieth century, the understandings of nature and the natural environment that predominate in Western societies have shifted in a marked way. Previously, nature had commonly been something to be subdued, whether through engineering works, dikes and drainage systems, through health projects, sewers and reservoirs, or through agricultural improvements, irrigation and soil management. Alternatively, it had been something to be looked after, whether land that needed to be kept in good heart so that it would continue to be fruitful, or specific places that commemorated human achievement.

    Since the 1950s, however, nature and the natural environment...

  7. Chapter 1 Virtualism and the Logic of Environmentalism
    (pp. 24-44)
    Vassos Argyrou

    This chapter is concerned with the apparent reversal of the modernist ‘physics’ and ‘anthropology’ in environmentalism; the reversal, that is, of the modernist perception of the physical world and definition of humanity and culture.¹ The central question it raises is whether this reversal signifies rupture with Modernism, as environmentalists and, for different reasons, their Modernist critics claim, or whether, rhetoric and common sense notwithstanding, it reflects some sort of continuity. Addressing this question not only helps illuminate the relationship between environmentalism and Modernity; it also shows how environmentalism, much like Modernity, can lapse into what Carrier (1998) calls ‘virtualism’; how,...

  8. Chapter 2 New Nature: On the Production of a Paradox
    (pp. 45-65)
    Maarten Onneweer

    One metaphor that continues to be turned into things is nature. As a concept it seems to have attained enough substance to be considered part and parcel of the modern world. Or has it? A famous poem of 1946 by the Dutch writer Bloem announced that in the Netherlands, ‘Nature is for the empty or contented’,¹ giving the impression that one would be hard pressed to find anything of nature in this country of the created and planned landscapes of land reclamation, agricultural rationalisation and urbanisation. Nature has become, if anything, the artefact of authenticity that is mainly found in...

  9. Chapter 3 A Culture of Conservation: Shaping the Human Element in National Parks
    (pp. 66-83)
    Kathy Rettie

    In principle national parks contain a nation’s natural heritage and they exist as a means to protect it for future generations; they are places where national environmental ideology and policy translate to practice. When the world’s first national park was created in 1872 in Yellowstone, in what is now the US states of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, natural resources were seen as unlimited and national parks were idealised as ‘islands of stability and a refuge for spiritual, cultural and physical renewal’ (Wright 1996: 3). Industrialised society’s ideology of sovereignty over the environment and urban society’s ideology of nature for spiritual...

  10. Chapter 4 A Bridge Too Far: The Knowledge Problem in the Millennium Assessment
    (pp. 84-111)
    Colin Filer

    The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) describes itself as ‘an international work program designed to meet the needs of decision makers and the public for scientific information concerning the consequences of ecosystem change for human well-being and options for responding to those changes’ (MA n.d.). It could also be described as a process, a network, a community or an organisation, depending on the point in time or point of view from which it is considered. Like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), it was designed to oscillate between an operational state, in which a programme of work was actually undertaken,...

  11. Chapter 5 Creolising Conservation: Caribbean Responses to Global Trends in Environmental Management
    (pp. 112-133)
    Tighe Geoghegan

    Development practitioners are perpetually challenged to reconcile the virtual models of international development with complex real-life situations. Those who believe that development decisions should be made by the people who are affected by them face an additional challenge: although most of the powerful actors who comprise the international development community, including donor and international development agencies and transnational non-governmental organisations, claim to embrace participatory approaches, these are expected to occur within frameworks and paradigms defined by them.

    In the Caribbean, the process of adapting imposed ideas, institutions and technologies to actual situations and needs is nothing new. The term ‘creolisation’,...

  12. Chapter 6 Uncivil Society: Local Stakeholders and Environmental Protection in Jamaica
    (pp. 134-154)
    Andrew Garner

    In their polemic about the failure of non-governmental organisations to deliver conservation of the Jamaican marine environment, Haley and Clayton (2003: 36) call for ‘more honesty, transparency and objectivity about the role of the NGOs, and a more rigorous assessment of the effectiveness of NGOs’. They argue that substantial government and donor funding of marine parks, protected areas and other initiatives run by environmental non-governmental organisations (ENGOs) has produced little change in coral reef degradation through over-fishing, algae blooms and bleaching. Their argument echoes a body of critical reviews of the effectiveness of NGOs in different parts of the world...

  13. Chapter 7 ‘The Report Was Written for Money to Come’: Constructing and Reconstructing the Case for Conservation in Papua New Guinea
    (pp. 155-176)
    Flip van Helden

    Pulling together support for expensive conservation interventions under the tight bureaucratic guidelines of international conservation agencies is a highly technical and complex affair. Mainstream project development theory suggests that a careful analysis of the local situation leads to the design of a coherent set of conservation interventions on the basis of which donors decide to provide financial support to the projects of their choice. Critics, however, argue that many international conservation interventions rest on a limited set of stereotypical images and assumptions, often based on the notion of pristine nature being threatened by the harmful activities of fast-growing local populations....

  14. Conclusion: Can the World Be Micromanaged?
    (pp. 177-188)
    Josiah McC. Heyman

    Reading these fine contributions, and placing them in the context of James Carrier’s provocative concept of virtualism (Carrier and Miller 1998), leads me to offer two generalisations. There is, first, a pattern in which power elites attempt to micromanage the world. Often, maybe always, they fail in their overt mission, but with important effects nonetheless. Second, the organisations required to conduct these immensely complicated operations across the globe have given rise to a worldwide occupational group of project operatives and functionaries, a social grouping that merits attention. While these generalisations are grounded in case material, it is only recently (with...

  15. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 189-190)
  16. Index
    (pp. 191-196)