Global Environmental Change, Culture and Development: Rethinking the Ethics of Conservation

By Elma Montana and Harry Diaz.

Published by The International Journal of Climate Change: Impacts and Responses

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Expected changes in climate and hydrology in Latin American drylands are likely to affect drinking and irrigation water availability, threatening productive systems and the subsistence of some rural dwellers. Research on the vulnerability of rural communities in watershed basins of Argentina, Bolivia and Chile have shown that drought and diminishing river flows would compromise the wellbeing of the smallest producers of these socio-ecological systems, who are already affected by other stressors, such as globalization, restricted fiscal policies and long established situations of poverty and inequity. Thus, it seems that global environmental change threatens the survival of specific agricultural development models, not those that are more integrated to the agribusiness processes but rather the subordinated, traditional models based on small-scale production and tightly connected to natural cycles. Along with their decline, traditional testimonies and practices related to these models would be lost, including their interpretative schemes and rationales based on values and worldviews different from the prevailing development model. The paper argues that these social and cultural capital losses would entail a drawback in the achievement of development goals—especially for those locally inspired—and that subordinate development models constitute, in themselves, a heritage worth to be preserved. In addition to linking global environmental change to culture loss and to the development processes, the paper suggests the necessity of rethinking the ethics of conservation to promote a new multiculturality paradigm that values small scale productive and lifestyles and understands its connections with nature.

Keywords: Vulnerability, Drylands, Development Models, Social Capital, Conservation

The International Journal of Climate Change: Impacts and Responses, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp.31-40. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 770.689KB).

Prof. Elma Montana

Researcher, Human, Social and Environmental Sciences Institute(INCIHUSA), National Scientific and Technical Research Council (CONICET), Mendoza, Argentina

Elma Montaña is a CONICET (National Scientific and Technical Research Council) researcher at the Human, Social and Environmental Sciences Institute in Mendoza, Argentina. As full professor, she teaches urban and rural sociology at the National University of Cuyo and also participates in Masters and PhD programs in other universities. She holds a PhD and a DEA from the Sorbonne University-Paris 3 in Geography and Planning. Her research focus is in the areas of space-society and nature-culture relations in drylands, political ecology of water and social, political and cultural dimensions of global environmental change. On these subjects, she is PI of Argentinean research projects and Co-Pi of international collaborative projects.

Prof. Harry Diaz

Director, Canadian Plains Research Center (CPRC), University of Regina, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada

Harry P. Diaz, M.A. (York, 1981), Ph.D. (York, 1984). Harry Diaz is a Professor of Sociology and Social Studies and Director of the Canadian Plains Research Center at the University of Regina, Canada. He teaches primarily in environmental issues, social science methodology, social theory, and development. His publications include books, articles and book chapters on climate change, vulnerability and adaptive capacity, processes of change in rural communities, and social capital and social cohesion in Western Canada and Latin America. Dr. Diaz has directed several international collaborative projects, including a major research project on institutional adaptations to climate change. At this moment Dr. Diaz directs a project on drought vulnerabilities in Canada and participates in a five-country project–Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile and Colombia-focused in vulnerability of rural livelihoods to extreme climate events.

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