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Royal Society Lecture Explores Political Ecology of Conservation

2017/10/06 08:20:37 AM

Senior Lecturer in the Discipline of Geography in the SAEES,Dr Adrian Nel, recently presented a lecture - as part of the Royal Society of South Africa series - on the topic of: A Glimpse into the Political Ecology of Conservation through the Greater uMfolozi Biodiversity Economy Node.

Dr Adrian Nel and Dr Edith Elliot at the Royal Society of SA lecture.

Senior Lecturer in the Discipline of Geography in the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences, Dr Adrian Nel, recently presented a lecture - as part of the Royal Society of South Africa (RSSA) series - on the topic of: A Glimpse into the Political Ecology of Conservation through theGreater uMfolozi Biodiversity Economy Node.
The RSSA hosts talks on contentious topics to introduce the public to people who have the tools at hand to work towards solving these issues. RSSA activities are especially aimed at recognising and rewarding excellence in Science.

Nel is Node Co-ordinator of the Political Ecology Network (POLLEN), a Member of the UKZN Poverty, Ecology and Climate Change HUB, and a Member of the Society of South African Geographers (SSAG).

A reviewer on several journals who has published a variety of papers in international journals, Nel based his lecture on his research interest in the political ecology of contemporary human-environment/landscape relations in southern and eastern Africa.

He began with a brief introduction about the interdisciplinary field of political ecology, defined as ‘a field that seeks to unravel the political forces at work in environmental access, management and transformation’. He spoke on the use of natural resources by humans as a political act, and the subsequent need for understanding of local power dynamics and their impacts.

Nel also touched on the political ecology of conservation, emphasising that political ecologists focus on major theses of degradation and marginalisation. Viewing conservation through these lenses includes examining conservation and control, environmental conflict and exclusion, and a perspective on conservation and colonial society.

He also spoke about commodity conservation and crisis conservation as well as alternative conservation that has been developing since the 1980s, wherein communities are involved in participatory processes and a return of land rights.

As an example of the application of political ecology, Nel focused his work in the greater uMfolozi Biodiversity Economy Node, where he is applying a political ecology perspective to conservation activities in that area and the politics thereof, including eco-tourism, conservation, rhino poaching, land claims and more. He has aimed to promote a win-win narrative of change in the node, and spoke about the roles of different players, the tensions between conservation and development, and an understanding of access and enclosures.

Nel, who has been at UKZN since June 2015, is originally from Zimbabwe. He received his Bachelor’s and Honours Degrees in Economics and Politics from Rhodes University, and a PhD in Environmental Policy from Otago University in New Zealand. He also held a visiting fellowship with the Institute for Development Studies at the University of Sussex and a research associate position with the Institute for Development Studies at the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) in Zimbabwe. 

Christine Cuénod


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