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Green infrastructure and landscape connectivity in England: a political ecology approach

Bormpoudakis, D. (2016) Green infrastructure and landscape connectivity in England: a political ecology approach. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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'Conservation is about people, not just animals' argued Prince William in a letter to The Financial Times, written to gather support for ending ivory poaching and trading. This truism is often repeated by conservationists; we are frequently reminded that what we do - as humans - influences nature 'out there'. Nevertheless, conservation science often hesitates to interrogate what we do as organised human societies. Time and again, that leads to somewhat simplifying analyses of humanity's enormous power in shaping the whole Earth System currently argued to surpass the power of geological forces. A case in point could be the isolation of corruption in Africa as the main driver for ivory market explosion in the last decade. Without considering the political-economy not just of ivory, but of the global-to-local societal organisation that allows for thousands of elephants and rhinos to be killed - for something of so low use-value such as ivory -little understanding can be shed on this alarming trend. I argue, and hope I have shown in this thesis, that we should aim towards enriching what conservation understands as its field of vision and allow the latter to encompass not just human and nonhuman nature and societies, as Prince William rightfully argues, but also the political and societal. I would be satisfied if by going through this thesis the reader would be convinced of just this argument. I am not claiming to be the first to identify this contradiction within conservation, but contra a sizeable number of scientists who work on similar subjects, I am normatively for conservation. A wealth of research has been published on conservation-society relationships that interrogates wider political, societal and economic constrains and opportunities as they relate to conservation. Usually though, research on what could be called critical conservation studies is (a) published in journals that conservationists do not read, and (b) is conducted by non conservationists, often critical of conservation as a science and praxis per se. Thus all this wealth has little import to wider discussions about the future of conservation science and practice, and is even considered by conservationists as hostile to their agenda. I hope it is obvious from the above that I place this piece of research within the wide field of conservation science - despite drawing from a variety of disciplines. In essence, this piece of work looks at the relation between political-economic transformations and the way societies think about, manage and regulate nature. Geographically, my focus is on England, but with a sideways glance to developments at the EU level. Historically, the scope is circumscribed by two years: 1981, the year of the Toxteth riots in Liverpool, and 2015, the year I submitted. Naturally, in this country-wide, 24 year study I have not even attempted to include 'everything'. I focused on what after examination of empirical data I considered to be key moments and places in the evolution of English conservation. I begin with a section that introduces the reader into the area of study, followed and a brief literature-based summary of conservation in England from the beginning of the 20th century. The next three chapters should be read as a small trilogy that discusses the general trends in conservation policy and governance in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis (Chapter 3), followed by two smaller chapters (vignettes) that study post-financial crisis landscape scale conservation from: (a) a policy and governance perspective (Chapter 4); a use of science and scientific metaphors perspective (Chapter 5). The following two chapters try to reconstruct the where and when (geography and history are important) specific conservation policies and practices emerge, always in relation to economic and political changes. Chapter 6 is a genealogy of green infrastructure, from its emergence in the post-riot Liverpool landscape of 1981, to its current amalgamation with ecosystem services and monetary-valuation-of-nature milieu. Chapter 7 looks at biodiversity offsetting and argues that changing economic and transport geographies are crucial in understanding why biodiversity offsetting emerged as a solution to wildlife development conflict in this instance and in the South East of England in particular. I conclude with a proposal for a new conservation that places utopia at the centre of its methodology (Chapter 8).

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Potts, S.
Thesis/Report Department:School of Agriculture, Policy and Development
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Agriculture, Policy and Development > Department of Sustainable Land Management > Centre for Agri-environmental Research (CAER)
ID Code:80276

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