Conference Agenda

Overview and details of the sessions of this conference. Please select a date or location to show only sessions at that day or location. Please select a single session for detailed view (with abstracts and downloads if available).

Session Overview
250N: The role of culture in land-use change
Wednesday, 24/Apr/2019:
4:15pm - 5:45pm

Session Chair: Yann le Polain de Waroux
Session Chair: Rachael Garrett
Location: UniS-A 003
UniS Building, Auditorium A 003, ground floor, 178 seats + 54 seats on gallery on first floor
Session Topics:
What do people want from land?

Session Abstract

Land systems studies commonly assume that land use actors in an area are motivated by rational profit-maximizing behavior. While this has allowed for generalizable explanations and modelling of land-use change, evidence suggests that actors may, in fact, respond differently to similar constraints and opportunities based on their endowments, experience, agency, beliefs, and other characteristics. The diversity of objectives and capabilities possessed by individuals within a community may help explain circumstances where economically driven policy interventions have failed to change land use behaviors. In this session, we propose to examine the role of culture in shaping the behavior of land users and their responses to external stimuli. While regularly mentioned as a contextual factor, culture has not figured very prominently in land systems studies. We wish to use this session to start a conversation among the land system science community on how to better account for the role of this important dimension of human behavior in land-use change research. We welcome contributions that explore the role of different aspects of culture in land use. We are particularly interested in contributions that approach the following questions: - What challenges does culture pose to current representations and explanations of the causes and consequences of land-use change? - How should we approach the role of culture in empirical studies of land-use change and in land-use change modelling? - What role does culture play in connecting land-use decisions in distant locations?

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ID: 554 / 250N: 1
250N The role of culture in land-use change
Keywords: payments for ecosystem services, relational values, stewardship

Bringing values and culture into payments for ecosystem services programs

Mollie Anne Chapman1,2, Kai M A Chan1

1University of Zurich, Department of Geography, Switzerland; 2University of British Colombia, Institute for Resources, Environment, and Sustainability, Canada

Payment for ecosystem services (PES) are often used to steer land-use changes, by using economic incentives to promote particular land uses (such as reforestation, ecological restoration, or sustainable agricultural practice). How can we design PES programs that are ecologically effective, cost-efficient and popular? PES programs often implicitly assume economic motivations, where increasing enrollment requires paying more or demanding less. But empirical evidence points to the prevalence of non-economic motivations, in particular the role of culture in influencing land users’ behavior. The PES literature and my empirical studies on programs in Washington State, British Columbia, and Costa Rica show how local actors are shaping PES programs to align with key cultural factors—the non-monetary motivations and values of participants. I conducted over 80 interviews with land stewards, program managers, intermediary organizations, and local and regional experts about environmental values and PES design. Beginning with relational values,as developed by Chan et al. (PNAS,2016, 113 (6), pp 1462-1465), I propose focusing on three key relationships: steward—land, steward—community, and steward—program. For each relationship, I discuss key relational values and how these can be reinforced—or alternatively undermined—by program design. For example, a design based on the steward—community relationship targets specific stream reaches to achieve both ecological connectivity and social reinforcement of stewardship among neighbors. By focusing on land stewards’ valued relationships, program design can use payments to facilitate and validate, rather than incentivize, stewardship actions. I propose that designing ‘steward-centered’ programs can improve PES programs’ effectiveness, efficiency, and popularity.

ID: 872 / 250N: 2
250N The role of culture in land-use change
Keywords: Culture, land use change, pastoralism, Tibet

Dynamic feedbacks between culture and land use in the Tibetan highlands

Kelly A. Hopping

Boise State University, United States of America

In land systems studies, the role of non-economic factors in shaping local actors’ land-use decisions has been widely acknowledged but less frequently operationalized, due in part to the complexity of translating social and cultural considerations into formal models. Among the challenges to doing so is that local beliefs and norms are not static. In many places, they are now also informed by exposure to new values from “distant” systems via, for example, access to formal schooling and engagement with social media. Drawing from cases on the Tibetan Plateau, I will explore how political, economic, and environmental shifts are interacting with and transforming socio-cultural norms, and thereby land-use decision-making. The resulting feedbacks between beliefs and actions may in turn amplify the magnitude of a land-use transition, as illustrated by Tibetan communities’ shift from nomadic pastoralism to harvesting an economically valuable medicinal fungus – a practice previously viewed as sinful and subject to moral retribution. Importantly, however, the changes in Tibetan communities’ and individuals’ beliefs about the land and their relationship to it have not been uniform. Rather than viewing this diversity as an additional hurdle, I propose that the inherent variation in these abstract, dynamic, and personally contingent socio-cultural factors instead creates a form of natural experiment that can be used to examine the effects of culturally-mediated land-use decisions.

ID: 600 / 250N: 3
250N The role of culture in land-use change
Keywords: culture, land-use change, methods, theory, anthropology

An anthropological perspective on culture and how it might be integrated into Land System Science

Jeffrey Hoelle

University of California, Santa Barbara, United States of America

Despite calls for the integration of social and natural science research and recognition of the role of culture in shaping land change, significant methodological and epistemological challenges remain to integrating culture into LSS. This study analyzes cultural values surrounding land use categories in the western Brazilian Amazon, providing an example of how cultural data collected through inductive, long-term anthropological research can provide a foundation for a more nuanced understanding of land-use change. The presentation also discusses the opportunities and limitations involved in connecting grounded social science research on culture with LSS explanatory frameworks that require generalizability, transferability, and standardization.

ID: 262 / 250N: 4
250N The role of culture in land-use change
Keywords: land use change, human well-being, foreign investment, conservation, tropical forest frontiers

Local peoples' attachment to land in forest-frontier contexts of Madagascar, Laos, and Myanmar

Julie Gwendolin Zaehringer1,2

1Centre for Development and Environment, University of Bern, Switzerland; 2Department of Geography, University of Cambridge, UK

Forest-frontiers in Madagascar, Laos, and Myanmar are experiencing highly dynamic telecoupled land use changes. Foreign investments for different cash crops are competing with conservation initiatives for land that was traditionally used by small-scale subsistence farmers. We have investigated the impacts of those changes on human well-being through focus groups and in-depth interviews. The values people attach to subsistence and commercial agricultural land uses differ between the three countries. In this presentation, I will present examples of cultural specificities regarding people’s attachment to land in these places and highlight the importance of these cultural differences for land use change modelling.

ID: 831 / 250N: 5
250N The role of culture in land-use change
Keywords: Land-use change; culture; cultural factors; land-use decisions

The challenges of unpacking “culture” in explanations of land-use change

Cecilie Friis

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany

When ranchers in the western US continue ranching despite its declining economic profitability, or when the Danish authorities support the preservation of a particular type of heath landscape by preventing it from reverting to forest, land-use decision-making becomes difficult to explain through simple rational profit-maximization models of behaviour. Yet, bringing in “culture” as an explanatory factor of land-use behaviour presents several challenges for land system science. First, in contrast to the universal, inherently de-contextualized “economic man”, culture or the social more broadly are understood to emerge from the complex interplay of “factors”, including meanings, beliefs, values, norms, and material artefacts. Cultures are therefore highly contingent in space and time. Consequentially, attempts to avoid cultural essentialism and cultural determinism clashes with aspirations for generalizable explanations of land-use change. This is especially a challenge for land-use change modelling that relies on spatial-geographical units of analysis and efforts to connect “pixels and people”. In this short input to the timely discussion raised in this session, I draw attention to these challenges as a starting point for exploring potential ways of addressing them using an empirical example from Southeast Asia.

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