1 Tahrcountry Musings: Importance of Social Science in Conservation

Monday, February 28, 2011

Importance of Social Science in Conservation

This past weekend, while sipping beer, we discussed the importance of social science in conservation. The starting point of discussion was a paper titled“Conservation and the Social Sciences” authored by,Michael B. Mascia, J. Peter Brosius Tracy, A. Dobson, Bruce C. Forbes, Leah Horowitz,Margaret A. McKean, and Nancy J. Turner

There is often a stark disconnect between our biological knowledge and conservation success. This has led to the awareness among scientists and practitioners that social factors are often the primary determinants of success or failure. Conservation actions are ultimately human behaviors. So it is very germane to understand how social factors work in the scenario. Conservation policies and practices sometimes turn out to be ill-suited to addressing the problems they were intended to solve.

Conservation policies and practices are inherently social phenomena influenced by intended and unintended changes in human behavior. This demands that the social sciences must become an integral part of conservation science and practice.

Social sciences can complement the biological sciences in many ways. For example environmental economics can often provide a powerful rationale for the establishment of protected areas by demonstrating that the value of goods and services generated by pristine ecosystems far exceeds that of a fragmented or transformed landscape.

Anthropological research can document the sociocultural and spiritual value of biodiversity. Together with other social science disciplines, anthropology can also identify the conservation-oriented cultural beliefs, values, norms, and rules which are well suited to serve as the foundation for statutes designed for protected areas.

The authors say “drawing upon the rich literature on the governance of “commons”—forests, fisheries, wildlife and the like—the social sciences can provide valuable insights into how decision-making arrangements, resource use rights, monitoring and enforcement systems, and conflict resolution mechanisms shape individual use of, and thus the state of, protected areas” . “Mainstreaming the social sciences in conservation policy and practice will be difficult, but the stakes are too high and the rewards too great for the conservation community to fail to try.”

There is no doubt that it is the applied tools from both social science and conservation biology that are most needed for successful conservation implementation. It is the need of the hour

No comments: