skip to main content

Title: Land Use Change and Commodity Frontiers
Argentina is experiencing an expansion of soya and maize cultivation that is pushing the agricultural frontier over areas formerly occupied by native Chaco forest. Subsistance farmers use this dry forest to raise goats and cattle and to obtain a broad range of goods and services. Thus, two very different and non-compatible land uses are in dispute. On the one hand subsistance farmers fostering an extensive and diversified forest use, on the other hand, large-scale producers who need to clear out the forest to sow annual crops in order to appropriate soil fertility. First, the paper looks at how these social actors perceive Chaco forest, what their interests are, and what kind of values they attach to it. Second, we analyze the social-environmental conflicts that arise among actors in order to appropriate forest’s benefits. Special attention is paid to the role played by the government in relation to: (a) how does it respond to the demands of the different sectors; and (b) how it deals with the management recommendations produced by scientists carrying out social and ecological research. To put these ideas at test we focus on a case study located in Western Córdoba (Argentina), where industrial agriculture is expanding at more » a fast pace, and where social actors’ interests are generating a series of disputes and conflicts. Drawing upon field work, the paper shows how power alliances between economic and political powers, use the institutional framework of the State in their own benefit, disregarding wider environmental and social costs. « less
; ; ;
Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Case Studies in the Environment
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. This paper reflects on the significance of ABET’s “maverick evaluators” and what it says about the limits of accreditation as a mode of governance in US engineering education. The US system of engineering education operates as a highly complex system, where the diversity of the system is an asset to robust knowledge production and the production of a varied workforce. ABET Inc., the principal accreditation agency for engineering degree programs in the US, attempts to uphold a set of professional standards for engineering education using a voluntary, peer-based system of evaluation. Key to their approach is a volunteer army of trained program evaluators (PEVs) assigned by the engineering professional societies, who serve as the frontline workers responsible for auditing the content, learning outcomes, and continuous improvement processes utilized by every engineering degree program accredited by ABET. We take a look specifically at those who become labeled “maverick evaluators” in order to better understand how this system functions, and to understand its limitations as a form of governance in maintaining educational quality and appropriate professional standards within engineering education. ABET was established in 1932 as the Engineers’ Council for Professional Development (ECPD). The Cold War consensus around the engineering sciences ledmore »to a more quantitative system of accreditation first implemented in 1956. However, the decline of the Cold War and rising concerns about national competitiveness prompted ABET to shift to a more neoliberal model of accountability built around outcomes assessment and modeled after total quality management / continuous process improvement (TQM/CPI) processes that nominally gave PEVs greater discretion in evaluating engineering degree programs. However, conflicts over how the PEVs exercised judgment points to conservative aspects in the structure of the ABET organization, and within the engineering profession at large. This paper and the phenomena we describe here is one part of a broader, interview-based study of higher education governance and engineering educational reform within the United States. We have conducted over 300 interviews at more than 40 different academic institutions and professional organizations, where ABET and institutional responses to the reforms associated with “EC 2000,” which brought outcomes assessment to engineering education, are extensively discussed. The phenomenon of so-called “maverick evaluators” reveal the divergent professional interests that remain embedded within ABET and the engineering profession at large. Those associated with Civil and Environmental Engineering, and to a lesser extent Mechanical Engineering continue to push for higher standards of accreditation grounded in a stronger vision for their professions. While the phenomenon is complex and more subtle than we can summarize in an abstract, “maverick evaluators” emerged as a label for PEVs who interpreted their role, including determinations about whether certain content “appropriate to the field of study,” utilizing professional standards that lay outside of the consensus position held by the majority of the member of the Engineering Accreditation Commission. This, conjoined with the engineers’ epistemic aversion to uncertainty and concerns about the legal liability of their decisions, resulted in a more narrow interpretation of key accreditation criteria. The organization then designed and used a “due-process” reviews process to discipline identified shortcomings in order to limit divergent interpretations. The net result is that the bureaucratic process ABET built to obtain uniformity in accreditation outcomes, simultaneously blunts the organization’s capacity to support varied interpretations of professional standards at the program level. The apparatus has also contributed to ABET’s reputation as an organization focused on minimum standards, as opposed to one that functions as an effective driver for further change in engineering education.« less
  2. Abstract

    Collaborative, or participatory governance is an increasingly common means of addressing natural resource issues, especially in the American West where patchworks of public, private, and tribal interests characterize the region’s resources. In this context, unlikely alliances, or partnerships among diverse actors who have historically been at odds, have a growing potential to shape social and ecological outcomes, for better or worse. While these unlikely alliances have received greater attention in recent years, relatively little research has worked to synthesize the concept across diverse contexts and disciplines. Based on a review of the literature on unlikely alliances in natural resource governance, we develop a framework that synthesizes the individual motivations and contextual factors that influence their formation, as well as the social and ecological outcomes that they create. We use this framework to analyze six illustrative cases of unlikely alliances. Our analysis of these cases suggests that unlikely alliances in the American West are likely to arise in the presence of a crisis, when appropriate leadership is present, when some of the actors have interacted effectively in the past, and when actors need to pool resources. The cases also illustrate some common outcomes, including environmental improvement, transformation of social networks,more »policy change, and shifts in power relationships. We discuss the implications of unlikely alliances for the social-ecological future of the American West. Our paper highlights the role of unlikely alliances in shaping patterns of natural resource governance, and provides a focus for further research in this realm.

    « less
  3. Government regulators cannot mitigate the loss of wetlands and coastal erosion alone. Nonprofits, uniquely situated between coastal property owners with personal interests and governments with regulatory interests, are positioned to mediate the interests of different parties while considering local context and individual circumstances. However, it is unclear what roles environmental nonprofits play within the network of actors. This study asks: (1) What roles do environmental nonprofit organizations play in local stakeholder network arrangements for wetlands conservation and shoreline management? (2) How are these roles interrelated? We use two frameworks describing the roles of nonprofits to examine the roles of environmental nonprofits within the network of actors that seek to mitigate loss of wetlands and coastal erosion by focusing on living shorelines as shoreline management solutions utilizing natural and nature-based features. We show how these roles are interrelated to provide context for how government can leverage nonprofits in achieving regulatory outcomes.

  4. One foundational justification for regulatory intervention is that there are harms occurring of a character that create a public interest in mitigating them. This paper is concerned with such harms that arise in the Internet ecosystem. Looking at news headlines for the last few years, it may seem that the range of such harms is unbounded. Hoping to add some order to the chaos, we undertake an effort to classify harms in the Internet ecosystem, in pursuit of a more or less complete taxonomy of harms. Our goal in structuring this taxonomy can help to mitigate harms in a more systematic way, as opposed to fighting an endless defensive battle against whatever happens next. The background we bring to this paper is on the one hand architectural—how the Internet ecosystem is actually structured—and on the other hand empirical—how we should measure the Internet to best understand what is happening. If everything were wonderful about the Internet today, the need to measure and understand would not be so compelling. A justification for measurement follows from its ability to shed light on problems and challenges. Sustained measurement or compelled reporting of data, and the analysis of the collected data, generally comes atmore »considerable effort and cost, so must be justified by an argument that it will shed light on something important. This reasoning naturally motivates our taxonomy of things that are wrong—what we call harms. That is where we, the research community generally, and governments should focus attention. We do not intend this paper as a catalog of pessimism, but to help define an action agenda for the research community and for governments. The structure of the paper proceeds "up the layers'', from technology to society. For harms that are closer to the technology, we can be more specific about the harms, and more specific about possible measurements and remedies, and actors that could undertake them. One motivation for this paper is that we believe the Internet ecosystem is at an inflection point. The Internet has revolutionized our ability to store, move, and process information, including information about people, and we are only at the beginning of understanding its impact on society and how to manage and mitigate harms resulting from unregulated commercial use of these capabilities. Current events suggest that now is a point of transition from laissez-faire to regulation. However, the path to good regulation is not obvious, and now is the time for the research community to think hard about what advice to give the governments of the world, and what sort of data can back up that advice. Our highest-level goal for this paper is to contribute to a conversation along those lines.« less
  5. Abstract Background and Aims The acquisitive–conservative axis of plant ecological strategies results in a pattern of leaf trait covariation that captures the balance between leaf construction costs and plant growth potential. Studies evaluating trait covariation within species are scarcer, and have mostly dealt with variation in response to environmental gradients. Little work has been published on intraspecific patterns of leaf trait covariation in the absence of strong environmental variation. Methods We analysed covariation of four leaf functional traits [specific leaf area (SLA) leaf dry matter content (LDMC), force to tear (Ft) and leaf nitrogen content (Nm)] in six Poaceae and four Fabaceae species common in the dry Chaco forest of Central Argentina, growing in the field and in a common garden. We compared intraspecific covariation patterns (slopes, correlation and effect size) of leaf functional traits with global interspecific covariation patterns. Additionally, we checked for possible climatic and edaphic factors that could affect the intraspecific covariation pattern. Key Results We found negative correlations for the LDMC–SLA, Ft–SLA, LDMC–Nm and Ft–Nm trait pairs. This intraspecific covariation pattern found both in the field and in the common garden and not explained by climatic or edaphic variation in the field follows the expected acquisitive–conservativemore »axis. At the same time, we found quantitative differences in slopes among different species, and between these intraspecific patterns and the interspecific ones. Many of these differences seem to be idiosyncratic, but some appear consistent among species (e.g. all the intraspecific LDMC–SLA and LDMC–Nm slopes tend to be shallower than the global pattern). Conclusions Our study indicates that the acquisitive–conservative leaf functional trait covariation pattern occurs at the intraspecific level even in the absence of relevant environmental variation in the field. This suggests a high degree of variation–covariation in leaf functional traits not driven by environmental variables.« less