Start › Forums › Courses › Current Debates and Themes in Global Environmental History › National Parks, civilisation and globalisation
|May 20, 2014 at 17:20 #12757|
|May 20, 2014 at 17:21 #12758|
Today we had a really engaged discussion with Jane Carruthers, a pioneer in South African environmental history, who did her doctoral research on game preservation in nineteenth century Transvaal. I am very interested in the politics of wildlife preservation in Kenya, and I see a lot of parallels, but also many differences between the ‘conservation scene’ in South Africa. I found it really helpful today to think internationally about national parks.
|May 20, 2014 at 21:36 #12759|
GEH: May 20th, Morag Ramsey
This week’s lecture and seminar with Jane Carruthers touched on interesting issues that arise when it comes to national parks. In particular Kristina and Maria raised the issues about globalization and standardization of such parks. This discussion reflected back to our autumn seminar on UNESCO heritage sites and their controversies and uses. What strikes me about these institutions is the underlying assumptions about nature and society that power them and their implicit universality. The points Carruthers brought up about the diverse nature of national parks problematizes these assumptions.
As Carruthers mentioned, national parks are not globally standardized and the term ‘national park’ functions more as a brand that invokes certain feelings without necessarily living up to any criterions. With that being the case, governments can create a national park to meet different needs and to produce different consequences in varying sizes and formats. National parks also exist in different landscapes; jungles, mountains, oceans, urban centres, and combinations of terrains to name only a few, and some straddle different political boundaries as well. As Carruthers stated on Monday, South Africa’s incentives for creating national parks changed from conserving species, to elite tourism, to a form of economic subsidy tourism for surrounding inhabitants and population.
Unlike UNESCO heritage sites, national parks are not held up to an international standard. On the one hand, this allows for more flexibility in creating a national park that functions in its own unique landscape, and to possibly account for different cultural, social, ecological and economic demands than elsewhere. On the other hand, it is difficult for the international community to hold a nation responsible for maintaining a certain standard within their national parks.
Underlying these issues are assumptions about how nature and society should interact on a global scale, and in some cases, create the idea of society as removed from nature. While there are seemingly practical arguments about maintaining biodiversity and decreasing pollutants, these arguments also rest on ideas of what a ‘healthy’ earth should look like. Despite hegemonic ideas of clean, non-polluted, ‘wild’ areas of the earth as the ideal prototype for nature being quite accepted it still encapsulates different power structures, histories, and economic influence. While it is difficult to argue against a clean ocean, it is also difficult to argue for removing people’s livelihood’s with no ready alternative, if that is what would be sacrificed. What was uplifting in some ways was Carruthers’ example of how profit from South African national parks can be funneled back into society into areas that really need economic attention, such as HIV/AIDS clinics. I hope that more transferable social gains can come along with preserving natural landscapes.
|May 21, 2014 at 06:31 #12760|
GEH 20th may; Jane Carruthers
National parks, civilization and globalization
Carruthers mentions in her speech and text the disparity between World Heritage sites (higly controlled/monitored) and National Parks (in the case of Southern Africa almost not monitored), which sketches a complex question whether these qualifications are any good and whether it would be beneficial to standardize parks any more.
As far as I understood from the discussion “National parks” in South Africa are qualified as such to rank them over other parks or reserves or to show national importance or pride. When it comes to regulation such a park nothing is set in stone; there is no unifying rule for national parks globally; which makes the title of ‘national park’ pretty much obtainable to pretty much any park there is; this raises the question whether we should use a phrase still, since it is open to everyone; it does not necessarily reflect the pride that was supposed to come with it. IN the case of South Africa it often means that the “national park” is often open to commercial exploitation, without complete clear monitoring how the biodiversity is maintained at the same time. I agree with the notion that every park is different and is hard to standardize,but I would think that if a park carries the title “national park” that it needs to adhere to some specifics. These specifics do not have to be too specific, but I can imagine there could be a commission judging on if a park has any national significance; whether it is unique in its kind; and whether it is preserved for the local people (and not merely exploited for commercial gains), without imposing continous boundaries like the world heritage does.
Regarding Unesco’s World Heritage Sites I was surprised to learn that you actually have to put in an application (which fair enough should be an option to everyone), but that Unesco itself doesn’t pick any sites (so it is a one sided option). I am sure that if they consider Kruger’s national park worthy of a WOrld Heritage Site, but Kruger park is afraid that they can’t commercialize it anymore in the rate that they do now, i am sure they should be able to step in.Of course this is not as simple as i just wrote it down, but there should be some more initiative from this foundation, since it is aimed towards protecting important heritage sites around the world, and these sites can’t apply for themselves.
To come back to the question of national parks and standardization I ahve started to wonder whether all national parks, for example in Europe are also so loosely regulated and lack supervision
|May 21, 2014 at 12:59 #12778|
Reflection on the discussion seminar with Jane Carruthers, 20th of May
The discussion with Jane Carruthers was to me the most engaging one so far in the course. With her convincing, assertive, yet very engaging manner of presenting the institution of national parks in the global context, Jane roused my interest in a topic that is typically very far removed from my field of interest (and also my knowledge scope). So far, I have never questioned the origin and all the implications hidden in a phenomenon so widespread and common; probably, it is precisely this wide dissemination and occurrence of national parks that make them seem self-evident and self-justifying. The fact that we lack a standardization of criteria of what constitutes and counts as a national park, made it that much easier for the phenomenon to pass unnoticed, so to speak, but in a way it also enables us to follow the flow and transformations of the idea of a national park in a global context, without those ideas being obscured in legal and conservationist jargon. This demands attention; which ideas and purposes of national parks were disseminated and how were they consolidated if we lack a supranational institution that would enforce these ideas?
|May 21, 2014 at 13:37 #12780|
Reflection paper, Jane Carruthers May 20th, Kristina Berglund
I think National Parks constitute a truly relevant topic in global environmental history, as they is one of our oldest forms of nature protection, with even older roots. National parks exist all around the globe, and are part of the nature conservation history so relevant for the environmental debate and history. The more I read about the matter I find my prejudices dissolve more and more. For example I for long thought that there were international rules and requirements to follow to in order for a conservation area to be allowed to be called a National Park. In later years I learnt this is truly not the case, as Carruthers also so clearly reminded us about this week.
|May 21, 2014 at 14:02 #12781|
Reflection of the discussion (20th May)
I really enjoyed yesterday’s discussion with Jane and all of you. During the discussion, we talked about how globalization could contribute to a healthy environment of valuable nature with a healthy human society bordering national parks.
I think our discussion was extensively concentrated on political issues. Like someone said, to build and maintain a national park, politicians play a big role because they are responsible for leasing out fund and deciding how the money should be used. One issue arose our concern was that some politicians may deploy the policies in the short-term as they care more about the situation during their tenures. Hence, it’s hard to measure the sustainable development of the national park as it requires a longer time to examine the sustainability of the park. Another issue in question is the purpose of building a national park. Obviously, a few national parks are built not only for safeguarding the ecology within the parks, but also to stimulate economic benefits. Regularly, a national park is planned with an aim to attract tourists. For me, this is a dilemma because if the parks exclude tourists, the economic gain would be largely decreased; whereas if the parks are open to the tourists, especially the popular ones, tourism activities may in turn lead to ecological degradation in the parks. In that case, what is the legitimacy of pouring money into establishing and maintaining the national parks?
Except that, we also talked about people’s attitude toward nature in China. I would say that it’s rather difficult to compare nature with China the West. First of all, the population of China is dramatically large and most of them dwell in cities. Consequently, the investment majorly goes to the cities and the infrastructure (e.g. Road, electricity, water and food) in the rural area, thus, is way lag-behind in comparison with that in the cities. Second, I would say, nature is, in some degree, disconnected and unattractive to the urban inhabitants as nature only locates in the remote, undeveloped regions. No matter how intact or beautiful the nature is, the Chinese people barely look forward to approaching there. Rather than getting to the nature, the Chinese people indeed pay more attention on improving their living environment in the cities.
|May 21, 2014 at 14:50 #12782|
Reply to Nick’s post
I agree with you that there is a need for formulating criteria so as to regulate national parks. But as what I know, national parks are always built with an aggressive commercial aim rather than the aim of conserving the biodiversity or ecology within the parks, although politicians always highlight the environmental benefits that national parks could release. That’s why a national park is usually a well-known tourist destination even for the UNESCO world heritage sites.
It may seem frustrating, but I think somehow a national park is catastrophic to the environment as long as it is open to human beings. I think mankind should just leave the nature as wild as it should be instead of turning it into a park because a lot of people would be easily attracted to a national park and I bet where there is people there must be pollution!!! However, I do appreciate the need of being an UNESCO’s world heritage site as it is human patrimony and if we do not protect a heritage site, it would be destroyed by natural or human activities some day and consequently the physical evidence of our cultural root will disappear at the same time.
|May 21, 2014 at 16:27 #12783|
I have attended a really good open lecture and also discusse with Jane Carruthers, a pioneer in South African environmental history. It gave me a deep impression about National park development history in South Africa. I hope one day I could get a chance to go to that nice country. During the discussion, we talked about how globalization could contribute to a healthy environment of valuable nature with a healthy human society bordering national parks. Because I have worked for China local government for more then 4 years, So actually I have strong intereting to think about how to make a nice claim come to tureth. As what I understand, national parks as a concept is not easy to set up and also copy to different courtries.It need a good social system or constructre. How to make decision on finding correct place to set up national park, how to set up a good standard which is not only concern about economic but also good at environment protecting. For example, In order to help the poor town in China, China central government has a policy that every 5 years selects 100 poorest town in whole country, give them extral money and free taxe to help them delveop the local economic and education which I think is a good idea. But during those years I had worked, I have noticed what those local goverments did was just try to prove there town is the poorest..They even fake important data in order to get the huge money which is come from central government. In the end the local people didn’t get the help, the “helping 100 poorest town ” project just become to another corruption way .What I want to figure out is, behind the national parks idea, it also means collect money from state to certain region. It concerns huge interests. People can do whatever to get it if a society lacking of good supervise system and fari law system which is always lack of in most of developing contury,
|May 21, 2014 at 18:41 #12788|
Nationalism, Conservation and Globalisation: the History of National Parks (20 May 2014)
|May 21, 2014 at 21:40 #12789|
Response to Anna’s commentary.
I think that we both find some of the same issues interesting from Carruthers lecture and seminar, and I enjoyed the Kenyan perspective you incorporate into the discussion. In some ways I feel a bit undereducated about the specifics when it comes to South African national parks (although more educated by this week’s readings and focus) and definitely undereducated when it comes to the Kenyan case. What remains apparent despite different global locations is the politics underlying national parks and in these two cases especially their colonial history.
I agree with your conclusion about reexamining the apparent nobility of some institutions such as national parks as their seemingly innocuous aims carry historical developments cloaked in prejudices and inequalities. However, it is a fine line to walk when one wants to engage in the field itself and use such institutions to their own ends and research and I find this issue to be unresolvable on all fronts. As we live in a ‘post colonial’ world and all that it has left behind, it seems a rather daunting task to dismantle everything and untangle the politics of it all. I suppose as people who are drawn towards post colonial and colonial projects and issues it is best to try and be as sensitive as possible without erasing our own space in this world.
|May 21, 2014 at 21:50 #12790|
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.
|May 22, 2014 at 07:30 #12791|
Reflection on the discussion 20th May
I was in the discussion group talking about the standardisation of parks. Curiously, I don’t think we touched on globalisation and how much that would affect the standardisation of them, or how much that could contribute to it. Even though the idea of national parks is now widespread around the world, it seems that every park is run uniquely. Every 10 years they also organise a big national parks convention, where they discuss how parks can be involved in tourism, sustainable development etc. What happens is that all these national parks, which are run uniquely and have their unique environment, attend a globalising event discussing topics, which are considered (in the global western world) as “hip.” I’m not sure what effects these conventions have on how the parks operate and how the managing staffs promote and are making the parks relevant to the society. But imagine if they had an effect on the managing of parks and managers attended a convention on parks and education. Could we then not see the new education projects and policies implemented in the national parks as a globalising and also globally standardising effect, since all the parks are doing the same thing? This certainly depends on if the national parks conventions do have an effect or not.
The other thing I found interesting is the mentioning of rebranding national parks according to their purpose. For example, if a park’s purpose was to attract tourists then we should rebrand it as a tourist park. What interests me most about this is how people would then perceive national parks, or in this case tourist parks. I personally would be against such a rebranding, due to my relationship with the Triglav national park in Slovenia. Although it has multiple purposes, like nature conservation, research of ecosystems, as a place of peace and quiet, people that come there are technically tourists. But I am very sure, nobody perceives themselves as such. They see themselves as nature-lovers, hikers, people who just went on a trip for a day or two. Renaming the Triglav national park into Triglav tourist park would have negative effects. In a way it would imply the purpose of the park is to watch tourists, which nobody wants to do. People go to these parks to observe “true” nature. Because of this personal relationship with the Triglav national park I would be against rebranding it in such a way. Furthermore (as a silly question), if we did rebrand the parks, would not then the only national park left in the world be the Triglav national park, because the Slovenians made a claim to be a nation with it?
Sorry for the late posting. I must have forgotten to click the submit button the first time and then erased it all by closing my browser.
|May 22, 2014 at 07:46 #12792|
Reply towytt2002sina-com from Maria
|May 22, 2014 at 07:56 #12793|
saw this today – some of you might be interested
“We (Africans) don’t actually like looking at animals in the park… We don’t visit to see animals or mountains.”
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