Stewardship of local wetlands: environmental ethics and traditional ecological knowledge in four rural Newfoundland communities

Hollis, T. I. (2004) Stewardship of local wetlands: environmental ethics and traditional ecological knowledge in four rural Newfoundland communities. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Environmental ethics is the study of the values and attitudes that guide the way we behave towards nature. Such studies are critical to addressing environmental and natural resource problems because value judgements are decisive when formulating decisions regarding the natural environment, whether by an individual or at policy-making level. This thesis is an exploratory study of environmental ethics, and local and centralized natural resource decision-making, in four rural Newfoundland communities. It examines the values associated with, attitudes towards, and uses of local wetlands in the context of a culture that has relied upon, and to varying degrees continues to rely on, local raw resources. In order to investigate the role that values assume in policy-making, a community level wetlands' stewardship programme, initiated from government level in two of the four study communities, is examined. This programme is also used as a case study of ethics in participatory community management. -- This thesis adopts the culturalist view of the construct of people-human relations by focusing on how peoples' valuations of the natural environment are affected by the way they engage with nature through their activities in it. The broad range of values in local wetlands that are held by community members, and which bear significantly on decision-making stances, are predominantly connected to the uses people make of their local wetlands. The tradition of, and modern hunter-gatherer use of the local environs may foster an awareness of the connection between humans and the natural environment, and develop a stewardship ethic based on both anthropocentric concerns to protect natural resources for future use, and also a moral concern for nature. Promoting appreciative uses and values of the natural environment may be effective for an increasingly detached-from-nature society but can lead to a separation from, and a privileging of specific aspects of nature. It can also foster a form of ethical elitism that can marginalise, and ignore the role traditionally developed ethics can play in addressing resource dilemmas. -- This form of elitism can judge local practices rather than understand them for what they are. It is also imperative to critically analyse the ethics of environmental policies so they can be evaluated for what they are, and whose interests they prioritise. Because the Municipal Wetlands Stewardship programme, as policy, is value laden, and as participatory management retains the 'right' value judgement, it marginalises the ethics of local stewardship practices, or traditional ecological knowledge (TEK). To the extent that a group's traditional reliance on local resources has developed an intimate knowledge of, and relationship with local nature, these ethics can be considered as TEK. To the extent that, in a resource dependent society, we need an ethic that tells us as much about using nature as much as not using it, and the right values are those that have ensured the community's survival, these values can be considered TEK. To the extent that the rationale for studying TEK is the need to develop an environmental ethic by learning from the wisdom of holders of this knowledge, such ethics should be considered TEK. -- Studying MWS highlights how policies enabling local concern should be built on the recognition that the value of localities to their inhabitants can form a powerful motive for environmental stewardship, but also how it constricts the avenues for the participation of TEK holders, and ultimately its effectiveness, by being value-laden and retaining the ethical autonomy within the arrangement. In concluding that local resource management can be built around historically developed and deeply felt concerns, it is shown that this is a legitimate strategy, both ethically and practically.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Item ID: 10675
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves 158-168.
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Geography
Date: 2004
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Environmental ethics--Newfoundland and Labrador; Traditional ecological knowledge--Newfoundland and Labrador; Wetland management--Newfoundland and Labrador.

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