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News and Views 18 November Research 18 November In the US, Transition to sustainable energy systems requires consumption that meets all human needs without excess. Rao et al. During the —16 shale-gas development in the Appalachian basin, United States, premature mortality from lower air quality and employment followed a boom-and-bust cycle, whereas climate impacts will persist for generations beyond the activity. Research 18 November Open Access. Internal waves can relieve coral reef heat stress, according to an analysis that isolates the effect at different depths using a compilation of high-resolution temperature records.
Recently, ecologists have begun discussing an idea for setting aside half of the Earth for conservation purposes. This study provides some of the first analysis of the impacts of doing so on society, based on assumptions about ecoregions and human footprint. Adoption of photovoltaic systems has been thought of in some countries as a choice influenced by political preferences. In the US, this polarization may be even stronger due to political polarization around climate change. Now, research shows that photovoltaic adopters can be found in both parties and they are politically active. Energy transitions might require not only changes in fuel mix, but also consumption reduction.
We provide practical guidance on overcoming these barriers to mainstream the social sciences in conservation science, practice, and policy. Conservation social scientists, too, need to be willing to engage with natural science knowledge and to communicate insights and recommendations clearly. We urge the conservation community to move beyond superficial engagement with the conservation social sciences.
A more inclusive and integrative conservation science—one that includes the natural and social sciences—will enable more ecologically effective and socially just conservation. Better collaboration among social scientists, natural scientists, practitioners, and policy makers will facilitate a renewed and more robust conservation. Mainstreaming the conservation social sciences will facilitate the uptake of the full range of insights and contributions from these fields into conservation policy and practice.
Pointing to the critical importance of the social sciences to the global conservation agenda is now routine. Everyone working in conservation, it seems, recognizes that natural science alone cannot solve conservation problems e. The conservation social science fields have grown significantly over the last few decades.
This is evidenced by the growing application of different social science fields to understand and ultimately improve conservation practice and an increasing institutionalization of the social sciences in conservation organizations. Conservation social science publications and textbooks are growing in number e. Yet, we assert that the social sciences have not yet achieved the same level of recognition and acceptance in conservation science, practitioner, and policy circles as the natural sciences.
Further, it is the norm for conservation organizations and agencies to employ natural scientists, whereas it is less common for such organizations to hire social scientists and, when present, they are often in the minority. Underpinning all this is that the breadth and role of conservation social science are often not clear to conservation scientists, organizations, practitioners, and funders. In short, we claim that the social sciences are still far from mainstream in conservation and as a result their potential contributions to improving conservation policies and practice are not being realized fully.
Building on the momentum and increasing interest in the human dimensions of conservation, we urge the conservation community to move beyond a superficial engagement with the conservation social sciences toward a true mainstreaming of the social sciences in conservation science, policy, and practice. A useful starting point for a discussion of mainstreaming the conservation social sciences is an appreciation of the breadth of the field and its purposes.
The term conservation social sciences refers to diverse traditions of using social science to understand and improve conservation policy, practice, and outcomes. We take a broad view of the conservation social sciences. The conservation social sciences draw on the classic disciplines, such as anthropology, sociology, political science, economics, psychology, human geography, and on applied disciplines such as education, development studies, marketing, communication studies, and law.
Many of these disciplines have subfields that focus specifically on the environment or conservation e. Interdisciplinary fields, such as science and technology studies, conservation and development, human dimensions of natural resource management, human ecology, ethnoecology, and political ecology, draw upon various social sciences or both social and natural science. The social sciences ask numerous questions that can improve our understanding of conservation policy and practice, from the individual, to the community, to the international scale Table 1.
The conservation social sciences might serve an instrumental role, for example, in determining what constitutes effective management, governance, or communications strategies for conservation. They can also serve a descriptive role, for example, by providing a historical account or describing the diverse ways in which conservation occurs in different contexts. The social sciences may also play a reflexive role, for example, by asking critical questions about the way different conservation models are framed, justified, and determined to be culturally appropriate.
Finally, the conservation social sciences have a generative role, for example, when they produce innovative conservation concepts, policies, practices, and models. Of course, individual projects that apply conservation social science can serve overlapping and complementary purposes.
We contend the role of social science is often misunderstood. However, even in the most applied aspects of the tradition, conservation social scientists are problem formulators, data collectors, analysts, and theory developers who can provide insights that can guide the social processes associated with conservation. Furthermore, although there is increasing attention to interdisciplinarity e. This misunderstanding and lack of early involvement in projects undermines the potential contributions of social science and interdisciplinary conservation science to produce better science or provide more complete solutions.
To realize their full contribution, we assert that the social sciences need to be mainstreamed in conservation policy and practice. By arguing for this mainstreaming, we seek to draw consistent and prioritized attention to the social dimensions of conservation in all social and ecological contexts and at all organizational levels with the ultimate goal of achieving a more robust, effective, and socially just conservation practice.
This is a momentous but essential task. Is conservation ready to mainstream social science? Simply doing more social science will not necessarily lead to better conservation unless that social science is assimilated into a hospitable environment.
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By ready we do not simply mean willing. Rather, are conservation organizations, institutions, and associations capable of truly integrating diverse insights from the social sciences? Many conservation scientists, organizations, and funders currently employ an ad hoc approach to engaging with the conservation social sciences.
Realizing the full value of the conservation social sciences requires knowledge of and commitment to social sciences across scales. Fulfilling the need for more and better social science in conservation may require a transformation of the entire approach, agenda, culture, and ethos of the conservation community. We summarize the barriers to social science mainstreaming under the following 4 categories: ideological barriers, institutional barriers, knowledge barriers, and capacity barriers Fig.
Successful mainstreaming requires directly addressing all barriers simultaneously. First, natural and social scientists often think quite differently about how the world operates and how scientists should engage with it. Differing worldviews may produce distinct understandings of the connections between nature and humans. This can lead to incompatible ways of thinking about a problem or of approaching research.
For example, social and natural sciences may prioritize different scales and units of analysis. A study of environmental change, for instance, may start with human action for the social scientist but ecological indicators for the natural scientist. Natural and social scientists may also view the nature and scope of knowledge differently, particularly what constitutes acceptable methods and valid data. As a result, social scientists often interact with nature and with human communities in different ways than natural scientists.
Second, conservation organizations and institutions are often configured for natural sciences, not social sciences. Conservation organizations or funders may have an organizational culture that primarily employs, understands, or values the natural sciences. Historically, many conservation organizations and funders have focused solely or primarily on natural sciences, leading them to privilege studies that utilize deductive rather than inductive reasoning. There is often a resistance to changing this focus to include and fund more social science perspectives. Some individuals or organizations may even feel threatened by the insights social scientists provide, particularly when those insights challenge entrenched practices and narratives.
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Beyond individual organizations, structural institutions that shape how the environment is governed, such as law, often impede integrative conservation practice. Third, all fields are steeped in disciplinary assumptions, theories, and methods.
The ensuing knowledge barriers include training, experience, and knowledge of theories and methods. The application of conservation social science may also require training in social science theories and methods and experience with method application and analysis of results or, equally important, training in integrative approaches that can provide a platform for natural and social scientists to engage effectively without having to relinquish their own disciplinary expertise.
The value of the range of social science methods e. Fourth, it takes capacity to engage with the social sciences. The capacity barriers to a deeper integration of social sciences can include human capital, skills, and resources. Limited social science capacity within conservation organizations may mean conservation practitioners and organizations looking to fund conservation social sciences do not know where or how to begin engaging with social sciences. Without a clear understanding of the breadth of the conservation social sciences, the types of questions that each field of conservation social science poses, and the methods used by disciplinary specialists, conservation organizations and funders may not appreciate the potential contribution of each social science field to improving conservation practice and outcomes.
This may also mean the necessary skills to carry out social science research projects or the necessary connections to social science expertise in other organizations may often be lacking within organizations. About us Expand About us Minimize About us.
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