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Futures, ethics and the politics of expectation in biodiversity conservation : a case study of South African sustainable wildflower harvesting.

McEwan, C. and Hughes, A. and Bek, D. (2014) 'Futures, ethics and the politics of expectation in biodiversity conservation : a case study of South African sustainable wildflower harvesting.', Geoforum., 52 . pp. 206-215.


Corporate efforts to demonstrate ‘sustainability’ within production networks are driving a continued demand for new metrics. This raises questions concerning which experts will be enlisted in their creation, what data and calculative methods they will draw on, and how and whether different publics will be convinced of the rigour of these metrics and their ethical purpose. Debates about futures and expectations tend to be western-centric; in response, this paper highlights the sophisticated environmental science and knowledges in a global South context where politics and uncertainty are of utmost importance. It draws on research into sustainable wild flower harvesting in the Cape Floral Kingdom (CFK), in the Western Cape province of South Africa, to explore the politics of expectation and future-making driving debates about biodiversity conservation and socio-economic empowerment within rural communities. It focuses specifically on how expectations of technologies, databases, knowledge and the environment play out in this particular site of production, influencing debates about sustainability, but also perspectives on what is ethical. The case study demonstrates that expectations are neither uniform nor uncontested, but bound up with inequities of power and authority in defining futures. The paper draws on postcolonial approaches to conclude that a radical opening of databases and knowledge production might challenge these asymmetries, but that constraints exist because of external pressures and expectations that arise from the political economy of biodiversity conservation.

Item Type:Article
Additional Information:Available online 7 November 2012
Keywords:Biodiversity, Conservation, Database, Ethics, Futures, South Africa, Postcolonialism, Fynbos.
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
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Publisher statement:NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Geoforum. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Geoforum, 52, 2014, 10.1016/j.geoforum.2012.09.010.
Date accepted:No date available
Date deposited:31 October 2014
Date of first online publication:March 2014
Date first made open access:No date available

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