WHAT'S IN A WORD: CONTEXTUALIZING NARRATIVES OF ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION

Jeremy Elder
unpublished
International discourses that inform environmental management policies rely too heavily on universalized narratives of environmental degradation. These narratives often situate subsistence communities and their livelihood practices as causal agents in scenarios of environmental degradation. Because they lack context, these narratives are flawed; they are built upon socially constructed ideas of nature and degradation that originate from a Western understanding of "good" and "bad" nature. These
more » ... bad" nature. These narratives are also dangerous, because as normative agents they facilitate, justify and moralize top-down, interventionary environmental management practices that often exclude local stakeholders from both the physical lands they rely on, as well as from the process of deciding how these lands will be managed. In some contexts, these conventional narratives of environmental degradation are applicable, but in others they reproduce colonial patterns of land appropriation, justified by the superiority of western knowledge. For environmental management policies and practices to be truly sustainable, they must also be equitable and privilege local understandings of nature and degradation.
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