Questioning the conventional environmental defence of places

This rhetoric and essentialist account of an increasingly fast loss of identity may call for a backward-looking defensive reaction. The idea of local community as homogeneous, harmonic, environmental friendly (as well as conception of places as bounded and undisturbed) is the product of an essentialist view because, probably, there is no such thing as a place or a community per se, but there are constructions of discourses and practices that define what kind of world do people want to live in.24

Ironically, the homogeneity of places are quite often defended by people "who belong to more than one world, speak more than one language (literally and metaphorically), inhabit more than one identity, have more than one home".25 Environmental discourses practitioners, from in-between, produce the idea of authenticity of places as valuable (partly or completely) from the outside, because of their awareness of different less valuable possible becomings of a place. This romantic production of authentic places and locals implies that 'international biodiversity conservation programs and ecotourism are both (related) forms of western hegemony, and [ ...] together they fail spectacularly to deal with global inequality'.26 The underpinning values, such as the value of biodiversity, of cultural heritage, or posterity rights, are not as inherent as some conventional environmental discourses assume to be. 27 The idea that locals, especially if qualified as indigenous, have a more direct access to nature because of their maintenance of traditional value, and a privileged understanding of environmental issues, has been questioned from an epistemological point of view by Bruno Latour28:

Non western cultures have never been interested in nature; they have never adopted it as a category; they have never found a use for it. On the contrary, Westerners were the ones who turned nature into a big deal, [ ...] a formidable moral gigantomachy [which] constantly brought nature into the definition of their moral order.29

The imbroglio of a deep form of exoticism embraced by western culture, where no primitive harmony or authentic immediateness is present, is perpetuated by the 'environmentalist myth[that] non-industrial societies possess a degree of ecological wisdom which has been lost in the process of industrial development'.30

However, frequently environmental politics of defending places authenticity is supported by local people. In these cases locals consider modernity as a process of subversion of any structured orders and rule, as moral contaminations, and physical destruction. The localist effort to conserve the dominant rule of the local community joints the conservative aspect of some environmental discourses. The problem is that the blood and soil narrative of authenticity is frequently the result of silencing otherness in defining the place desirable features.31 To embrace the romanticised ideal of noble savage, who is a disinterested natural custodian of the environment, disregards that local inhabitants might be very proprietarial about their land and resources, and deeply resent the idea that foreigns have any right to unilaterally declare them in need of conservation or to limit their economic activities. In the conventional environmental discourses is often assumed that locals are satisfied with their lifestyle (subsistence or traditional lifestyle), have limited material and financial aspirations and 'are not annoyed by the enormous gulf between their level of affluence and that of the foreign conservationists, consultants and tourists whom they interact with on a regular basis'.32

Furthermore, in some cases, the conventional environmental politics may become part of the same iron cage they are supposed to break.33 It is not unusual that large corporations and international institution, local governments and big environmental association discovered the currency of environmentalism and 'en-vironmentalism is now a pillar of establishment orthodoxy'.34 This means that the issue of places protection, as the others environmental issues, are not a matter of authenticity, of scientific or spiritual Truth, of pursuit of higher values, but it's a matter of competing political projects in a always dynamic and global frame.

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