Géraud de Ville

The Open University, Department of Engineering and Innovation
London, UK

Natural resources at the centre of conflicting visions?

Exploring the quantitative/qualitative frontier for a consensual management of the environment

January 16, 2013

Call for Contributions : Royal Geographical Society with IBG Annual Conference London, 28th-30th August 2013. Sponsor: Participatory Geographies Research Group (RGS)

Photo Matthew Simpson – Creative Common

Session convenors:

Andrea Berardi, Lecturer at The Open University, UK; Jay Mistry, Senior Lecturer at Royal Holloway, University of London, UK; Elisa Bignante; Senior Lecturer at the University of Torino, Italy; Céline Tschirhart, Post-Doctoral Research Assistant at Royal Holloway, University of London, UK; Géraud de Ville, PhD Candidate at The Open University, UK. Contact us

Sustainable natural resource management has become of crucial importance in the face of new challenges such as climate change and accelerated environmental degradation in a world of 7 billion people. In response, current international neoliberal policy formulation and implementation is focused around the management of comodified ‘ecosystem services’ such as carbon storage and biodiversity conservation. REDD+ and other payments for ecosystem services schemes require governments to establish mechanisms for monitoring these ecosystem services or natural goods. In the pursuit of assigning some form of ‘value’ to the environment and its services, together with the predominantly top-down vision governing the process of monitoring, the generally accepted approach has been to focus on highly quantitative forms of measurement and monitoring. Yet, in many countries where state and civic society resources, both financial and human are low, it is the local communities who are being asked to act as the stewards of ecosystems and actually do the ‘management’ and ‘monitoring’ on the ground. But to what extent do local communities living in these ecosystems have quantitative worldviews and means of communication? Studies, particularly on indigenous peoples, indicate the oral, relational, emotional, and visual, as important elements of how communities relate to their environment.

In this session, we draw on Hanson’s (1997) suggestion that geographers should use methods that “maximise the chance that we will see things we were not expecting to see, that leave us open to surprise, that do not foreclose the unexpected, …to…avoid… simply  affirm[ing] what we already believe“ (p.125). In the context of the management of natural resources, we invite papers to explore the following questions:

  • To what extent and in what aspect do local communities have a more qualitative worldview of their environment?
  • How is it possible to integrate these qualitative perspectives and dimensions into national and international policies that shape and determine natural resource management for the benefit of local communities?
  • What methodological tools, including participatory methods, technologies, can we adopt to promote and support a qualitative approach to natural resource management? And with what limits?
  • How do we analyse and communicate qualitative information?
  • What is the ‘unexpected’ that might be revealed?

Please email questions about the session, or send abstracts (approx 250 words) to Andrea Berardi (andrea.berardi@open.ac.uk), Jay Mistry (j.mistry@rhul.ac.uk) or Elisa Bignante (elisa.bignante@unito.it) by Tuesday 5th February 2013.

Hanson S 1997 As the world turns: new horizons in feminist geographic methodologies in Jones III, JP, Nast H and Roberts SM eds Thresholds in feminist geography Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, MD 119-128



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