, Volume 49, Issue 5, pp 942-953
Date: 22 Mar 2012

The Premises and Promises of Trolls in Norwegian Biodiversity Preservation

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Abstract

This paper examines the perception and implementation of scientific knowledge among Norwegian environmental bureaucrats in the process of preserving biodiversity. Based on interviews with environmental officials and scientists, and document studies, the data reveal a mismatch between the ideal administrative world presented by environmental managers, and the empirical reality of biodiversity vulnerability and preservation. The environmental officials depict a process where their mandate is merely instrumental, where science provides objective descriptions of biodiversity value, and where the spheres of science, policy and administration are strictly separated. Instead of a transparent strategy for handling scientific ambiguities inherent in biodiversity value assessments (such as complexity and uncertainty), and administrative judgments, the paper argues that these boundary objects and areas are perceived as ‘trolls’ that are ignored and hidden by environmental officials. This strategy appears intuitive and guided by a linear decision making paradigm where boundary objects are considered illegitimate. As a solution to possible obstacles stemming from this institutional vacuum, the article finally discusses the potential of adapting or assimilating the trolls to better meet the challenges of biodiversity preservation. A viable first step might be cross-disciplinary characterisation of complexities and uncertainties of biodiversity assessments. This might help to articulate the binary ontology of value assessments and to better address the critical administrative, political and scientific intersections. These boundary areas must be re-institutionalised by environmental agencies, and cognizant strategies must be devised and implemented for making professional judgment and discretion. Finally, it may amount to a more honest stance on conservation, where the inherent complexities to biodiversity preservation may be managed as complexities, and not as trolls.