This project will study the impacts of the current surge in large-scale resource extraction and wildlife crime, and the conservation responses they elicit.
Recent political ecology iterature points at three reasons why this surge differs from earlier ones and why extraction and wildlife crime should be studied together. First, rising levels of affluence in Asian and other ‘emerging economies’ have triggered a sharp increase in the demand for fossil, mineral, timber and wildlife resources. Second, new extractive, military and information and communication technologies have rendered resource extraction and wildlife crime more effective, (potentially) lethal and destructive, and its impacts more visible to global publics. Third, they are increasingly overlapping in reality, thereby (further) blurring legal and illegal practices. The result has been a fertile ground for ‘crisis conservation’: high-pressure situations where urgent action is required to safeguard nature from destruction. The research will investigate and theorize crisis conservation situations as ‘spaces of exception’ where rules, norms and ideas about legality are violated by those perpetrating and those countering the threats. These spaces of exception often include violence and therefore dramatically change environmental governance, but exactly how and with what impacts on people and nature is ill understood.
Employing innovative multi-level ethnographic methods that connect the power and politics of actors through space and time, the project focuses on three countries where iconic species and ecosystems are acutely threatened by globally induced extraction and wildlife crime dynamics: Brazil, Indonesia and South Africa. By investigating and comparing how actors respond to crisis conservation situations in these countries, the project will develop important policy-relevant knowledge on how better to deal with and respond to similar situations of exception while moving towards a novel theoretical synthesis that links political ecology literatures on violence, conflict and environmental governance with influential theories on exception.