The University of Arizona

Political and event ecology: critiques and opportunities for collaboration

Rodrigo Penna-Firme

Abstract


The field of political ecology has striven to balance a focus on symbolic and materialist aspects of humanenvironment relations. Event ecology has emerged not only as a major materialistic approach for the study of human-environmental relations, but also as an important set of critiques of political ecology's supposed lack of ecology and overreliance on a priori assumptions about the linkages between local environmental changes and macropolitical economic phenomena. This article discusses the origins and progress of event ecology, while demonstrating its strengths and limitations vis-à-vis the development of political ecology research. Based on participant observation and interviews conducted among local residents of a small village (a quilombola community) in a state park in São Paulo, Brazil, I propose a collaborative event ecology that combines the rationale of event ecology with critical perspectives inspired by political ecology's focus on power relations, conservation and justice. Unlike the strict application of event ecology, I contend that scrutinizing events other than researcher-oriented ones may help us better understand why some places achieve conservation while others do not. The article concludes that assessing conservation effectiveness and change through environmental outcomes alone risks being seen as socially unjust in the eyes of locals while posing a real threat to local livelihoods and community-based development expectations.

Key words: collaborative event ecology, conservation with justice, quilombola communities, Atlantic Forest, Brazil. 


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2458/v20i1.21764