I decided to go big and start with a review paper titled “Poverty, Development, and Biodiversity Conservation: Shooting in the Dark?” by Agrawal and Redford, 2006 (see below for full citation). This paper examined contradictions between theoretical and empirical (or case-study based) studies of poverty and biodiversity and reviewed articles that aimed to ameliorate both via three common strategies. It has a lot to offer and left me with a lot to think about. It was a great paper to start with because it challenged the assumptions of a field I am new to, and I think it will give me a more critical eye when I read case studies and other papers.
Agrawal and Redford begin by explaining that there is a broad spectrum of opinion regarding to what extent it is possible to craft policy that alleviates poverty and simultaneously prevents biodiversity loss. There are, however, two main camps:
- Biodiversity conservation and poverty alleviation can, indeed, be achieved together in place and time, but can only be the result of distinct policy directions. In short, each side should minds its own business.
- Biodiversity and poverty alleviation can be achieved together in a synergistic process, and combining them is a necessary to achieve both.
Generally, it is thought that poverty alleviation will lead to conservation since the poor degrade the environment as a result of their poverty.
Although I am sure most human activity has some negative ecological impact, my gut instinct took a bit of an issue with the second camp. Yes, I believe that poverty alleviation and biodiversity conservation can be achieved simultaneously (otherwise I wouldn’t have this blog!) but I’m not sure how much you can blame the poverty-stricken for all the damage that is being done. The excesses of the wealthy, in my experience, far exceed the efforts of the poor to glean a livelihood–even in the “Third World”! What causes by far the most damage to Nigeria’s environment, for example, is oil companies’ pollution of its rivers and not any any activity performed by locals.*
Anyway, this was a great paper, and I’ll be writing more about it! It discusses how there is a difference in the way poverty and biodiversity are treated in theoretical literature and in case studies, and what is needed to address poverty and biodiversity loss in the future! Stay tuned!
*Some may quibble that a great deal of oil pollution is caused by locals, who steal crude oil to sell it on the black market. My response would be that that is technically true, but oil companies have also deprived the people living in the Niger Delta of a living and have polluted their environment to such an extent that the only thing locals can do to survive is engage in the black market and… er… kidnap oil workers. So technically, I would argue that it is not pollution caused by locals.
Agrawal, A. and Redford, K. H. (2006). Poverty, development, and biodiversity conservation: Shooting in the Dark? Wildlife Conservation Society Working Paper, 26, 1-48.