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Chapter 1

Week 6 Robbins Chapter 1 summary

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University of Toronto Mississauga
Gabrielle Sauter

Robbins Chapter 1 -Habitat loss and wildlife decline appear both more complex and more connected to the daily lives and routines of urban people in the developed world. Cross-border analysis shows the decline in habitat and wildlife in Kenya is far higher than in Tanzania -reason: private holding and investment in export cereal grains on the Kenyan side of the border have led to intensive cropping and the decline of habitat. -less developed agricultural markets and less fully privatized land tenure systems in Tanzania means less pressure on wildlife. The Wildlife crisis in East Africa is more political and economic than demographic -Money and pressure for wild life enclosure, which fund the removal or native populations from the land, continue to come largely from multilateral institutions and first world environmentalists. -the difference between this contextual approach and the more traditional way of viewing problems like this is the difference between a political and an apolitical ecology. What is Political ecology? -lots of definitions. Some focus on economy other on more formal political institutions -the many definitions together suggest that political ecology represents an explicit alternative to “apolitical” ecology, that it works from a common set of assumption, and that it employs a reasonably consistent mode of explanation. Challenging apolitical ecologies -apolitical ecology explains land degradation, local resource conflict, or state conservation failures, as an alternative to other perspectives -the most prominent of these apolitical approaches, which tend to dominate in global conversations surrounding the environment, are ‘ecoscarcity’ and ‘modernization’ accounts. -ecoscarcity and the limits to growth: the dominant contemporary narrative of environmental change and human-environment interaction is a well-established one with a long history -Malthus: human populations grow out of proportion of to the capacity of the environment -Ehlrich and Meadows -all hold to the ultimate scarcity of non-human nature and the rapacity of humankind’s growing numbers -growth rates are greatest in the underdeveloped world. And according to this view as population increases so do resources and the wild life thus putting the underdeveloped world in a bind. -problem with this argument: demographic explanation is a relatively weak predictor of environemnetal crisis and change. -market “optimists”, expressing the problem in economic terms, suggest that any form of resource scarcity creates a response that averts serious crisis. As a good becomes scarcer, they suggest, its price tends to rise, which results either in the clever use of substitutes and new technologies to increase efficiency, or in a simple decreased demand for that good. The result is that apparently finite resources are stretched to become infitely available as consumers use less and producers supply more efficient alternatives and substitutes. -Malthus insisted that since famine and starvation were essential to controlling runaway human populations, such events are “natural” and inevitable. -apolitcal arguments are inherently political anyway. One solution to the apolitical argument of demograpahics requires the population and govt work which is political in terms of distribution and control of resources. -Other apolitical ecologies: diffusion, valuation, and modernization -other prominent accounts of environmental change also dominate current thinking, asserting apolitical answers to extremely political questions. -for example: it is commonly argued that ecological problems and crises throughout the world are the result o
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