Reply To: National Parks, civilisation and globalisation

Author Replies # Posted on May 21, 2014 at 21:50

In response to Wilen M.

I think you’ve really brought to the fore the uncomfortable dilemma that Carruthers research focuses on. The national park brand conjures up images of altruistic conservation of wild nature, and acts as a symbol of national pride. Yet the history of these parks suggests they are not quite so benign. The idea of rebranding national parks (by those in the business) seems unlikely, because the P.R. is still great. As Carruthers pointed out, a more representative name in South Africa may be tourist park, but that is decidedly cringe-worthy.
The national park brand feels deceptive, because they commodify nature, and they create spaces where only the elite enjoy the environment. This also parallels a lot of global patterns where wealthier nations/organizations/institutions shame ‘developing’ countries for not prioritizing environmental issues and having less ‘green’ infrastructure. Research into carbon sequestration and REDD/REDD+ initiatives are also very critical about setting aside natural resources for the benefit of an ambiguous greater good.
The national park situation provides something of a petri dish for those interested in examining the complexities of sustainable development. I guess the issue I still struggle with is really being critical and reflexive about my own perceptions of nature and environment, this conflict between nature – lots of it for everyone, and nature – a bourgeois sentimentalist entitlement. I suppose a third category would be nature – science approved. I think it’s really important to unpack different conceptions of ‘nature’ from as many different stakeholders as possible.