The University of Arizona

What is this thing called 'natural'? The nature-culture divide in climate change and biodiversity policy

Ylva Uggla


This paper treats two highly topical and interconnected environmental issues-climate change and biodiversity-in which the nature-culture divide appears in policy and regulation. The aim is to analyze how "the natural" and concerns for biodiversity and climate change are constructed in applicable regulatory frameworks, and to explore social and environmental consequences of these constructions. The analysis indicates that biodiversity and climate change regulation help construct nature and culture as separate categories and give rise to the notion that the natural state is worth protecting from human intrusion. The notion of human agency, however, is ambiguous because humans are depicted as having the power and skill to protect and even recreate "natural nature". The paper concludes that, although nature and the natural are often used as politically and socially-neutral concepts, the definition of "natural nature" as a place devoid of humans has social as well as environmental consequences.

Keywords: biodiversity, climate change, human-nature relations, environmental protection, environmental regulation

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