Dbytes #532 (13 July 2022)

Info, news & views for anyone interested in biodiversity conservation and good environmental decision making


“Choices based on a nonrelational ontology, where humans can be meaningfully separated from the ecosystems on which they depend (i.e., people and nature), have been indirectly attributed to biodiversity loss. Examples of these choices could include open-cut mining, large-scale deforestation and watershed pollution. In contrast, a relational ontology would not assume that humans could be separated from ecosystems, but that entities—plants, animals and parts of the landscape—have agency and are embedded within a universe of reciprocal interactions (i.e., people as nature). Here, choices account for the consequences of any action or intervention for an assemblage of relationships between entities, thereby reducing the risk of species loss.”
Katie Moon & Katharina-Victoria Pérez-Hämmerle
[see item 1]

In this issue of Dbytes

1. Inclusivity via ontological accountability
2. What can we expect in Australia’s new climate law?
3. Nation-building or nature-destroying? Why it’s time NZ faced up to the environmental damage of its colonial past
4. Decoloniality and anti-oppressive practices for a more ethical ecology
5. Citizen Science as an Ecosystem of Engagement: Implications for Learning and Broadening Participation
6. We’ve overexploited the planet, now we need to change if we’re to survive
7. Greater gliders are hurtling towards extinction, and the blame lies squarely with Australian governments

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1. Inclusivity via ontological accountability

Conservation and environmental policies are increasingly criticized for marginalizing peoples, entities and practices. Typically overlooked, yet critical in their potential for marginalization and exclusion, are the assumptions that underlie a policy’s classifications, categorizations and descriptions of reality. These ontological assumptions come to define which interventions are appropriate, or even possible, and for whom. We seek to illuminate the importance of ontology to policy-making and implementation processes. We do so via an ontological analysis of selected elements of an international policy, the Convention on Biological Diversity, to show how language, logic, rights and responsibilities expressed and inferred within the policy could marginalize different entities and practices. The analysis demonstrates how a policy represents reality and thereby intervenes in the world, with consequences for alternative ontologies, peoples, and knowledges. To support ontological accountability, we offer a three-stage conceptual framework to: deconstruct the language used in describing reality; make sense of how language and logic entangle rights and responsibilities; and enable transformation by becoming accountable to diverse practices of reality. Enabling the coexistence and practice of multiple ontologies is not easy or simple, but it is fundamental for transforming to inclusive policy-making, implementation, and self-determination.

The Society for Conservation Biology (wiley.com)

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2. What can we expect in Australia’s new climate law?

Australia’s newly elected government has promised to introduce a Climate Change Bill. It won’t be available till later this month but we have a fair idea of what it is likely to say. It will not seek to reimpose a carbon price but will use an existing law reduce allowable emissions for the largest polluters. It will enshrine both Australia’s ‘net zero by 2050’ goal and its new Paris ‘nationally determined contribution’ of a 43% reduction in emissions by 2030. It will also restore the CCA’s role of advising Government on future targets; require the climate minister to report annually to Parliament on progress in meeting targets; and paste the new climate targets across into the formal objectives and functions of several government agencies.

https://sustainabilitybites.home.blog/2022/07/13/what-can-we-expect-in-australias-new-climate-law/

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3. Nation-building or nature-destroying? Why it’s time NZ faced up to the environmental damage of its colonial past

The ways in which New Zealand remembers European colonisation have changed markedly in recent years. Critics have been chipping away at the public image of Captain James Cook, the New Zealand Wars have been included in the new compulsory history curriculum, and streets honouring colonial figures have been renamed. However, while New Zealand is slowly recognising the historical injustices suffered by Māori, the same reappraisal hasn’t extended to the natural environment. The dramatic transformation of “wild untamed nature” into “productive land” by European settlers in the 1800s continues to be widely celebrated as a testament to Kiwi ingenuity and hard work.

My soon-to-be published research, based on a survey of 1,100 people, suggests this narrative could be partly responsible for New Zealanders’ apparent complacency on climate change compared to other countries. Essentially, it appears those who refuse the “taming of nature” narrative – and instead recognise the 19th century as a period of environmental destruction – are more likely to have what psychologists call an “environmental self-identity”.

https://theconversation.com/nation-building-or-nature-destroying-why-its-time-nz-faced-up-to-the-environmental-damage-of-its-colonial-past-185693?

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4. Decoloniality and anti-oppressive practices for a more ethical ecology

Ecological research and practice are crucial to understanding and guiding more positive relationships between people and ecosystems. However, ecology as a discipline and the diversity of those who call themselves ecologists have also been shaped and held back by often exclusionary Western approaches to knowing and doing ecology. To overcome these historical constraints and to make ecology inclusive of the diverse peoples inhabiting Earth’s varied ecosystems, ecologists must expand their knowledge, both in theory and practice, to incorporate varied perspectives, approaches and interpretations from, with and within the natural environment and across global systems. We outline five shifts that could help to transform academic ecological practice: decolonize your mind; know your histories; decolonize access; decolonize expertise; and practise ethical ecology in inclusive teams. We challenge the discipline to become more inclusive, creative and ethical at a moment when the perils of entrenched thinking have never been clearer.

Decoloniality and anti-oppressive practices for a more ethical ecology | Nature Ecology & Evolution

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5. Citizen Science as an Ecosystem of Engagement: Implications for Learning and Broadening Participation

The bulk of research on citizen science participants is project centric, based on an assumption that volunteers experience a single project. Contrary to this assumption, survey responses (n = 3894) and digital trace data (n = 3649) from volunteers, who collectively engaged in 1126 unique projects, revealed that multiproject participation was the norm. Only 23% of volunteers were singletons (who participated in only one project). The remaining multiproject participants were split evenly between discipline specialists (39%) and discipline spanners (38% joined projects with different disciplinary topics) and unevenly between mode specialists (52%) and mode spanners (25% participated in online and offline projects). Public engagement was narrow: The multiproject participants were eight times more likely to be White and five times more likely to hold advanced degrees than the general population. We propose a volunteer-centric framework that explores how the dynamic accumulation of experiences in a project ecosystem can support broad learning objectives and inclusive citizen science.

Citizen Science as an Ecosystem of Engagement: Implications for Learning and Broadening Participation | BioScience | Oxford Academic (oup.com)

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6. We’ve overexploited the planet, now we need to change if we’re to survive

he relationship between humans and nature is under intense and increasing strain. The report released today by Ipbes, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (akin to the IPCC reports on climate change), provides compelling evidence that humans are overexploiting wild species and habitats. Harmful activities, including habitat destruction, poor farming practices and pollution, have altered ecosystems significantly, driving many species past the point of recovery. In Great Britain alone, of the 8,431 species assessed in the 2019 State of Nature report, 1,188 are threatened with extinction. Globally, there are an estimated one million at risk, with biodiversity declining at a faster rate than at any time in human history.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/jul/08/climate-crisis-biodiversity-decline-overexploited-planet-change-to-survive-aoe

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7. Greater gliders are hurtling towards extinction, and the blame lies squarely with Australian governments

A key reason is that Australia’s environmental laws and practices are outdated and offer little meaningful protection to threatened plants and animals. To avoid a future in which greater gliders are nothing more than a memory, we must immediately stop destroying their habitat.

https://theconversation.com/greater-gliders-are-hurtling-towards-extinction-and-the-blame-lies-squarely-with-australian-governments-186469

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About Dbytes

Dbytes is a weekly eNewsletter presenting news and views on biodiversity conservation and environmental decision science. ‘D’ stands for ‘Decision’ and refers to all the ingredients that go into good, fair and just decision-making in relation to the environment.

From 2007-2018 Dbytes was supported by a variety of research networks and primarily the Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED). From 2019 Dbytes is being produced by David Salt (Ywords). Dbytes is supported by the Global Water Forum.

If you have any contributions to Dbytes (ie, opportunities and resources that you think might think be of value to other Dbyte readers) please send them to David.Salt@anu.edu.au. Please keep them short and provide a link for more info.

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