GeoJournal

, Volume 76, Issue 4, pp 401–415

Democracy or expertise? objectivity as an elusive ideal in the resolution of a Vermont land use dispute

Article

Abstract

This paper looks at attempts to chart a course through social conflict over the environment. Focusing on a case in northern Vermont, it considers two different approaches to resolving conflict: reliance on a democratic process and turning decision making over to experts. In Vermont, attempts to implement either of these approaches were dogged by controversy. The argument in this paper is that both approaches rely on unexamined notions of objectivity that obscure the decisive role of underlying values. On one hand, the standards by which to judge the effectiveness of democratic processes were a source of conflict, both in the designation of decision-making authority and in the definition of the constituency. On the other hand, the expertise of conservation biologists was challenged as being a front for environmental interests, a challenge that found support in the fact that what was represented as objective fact actually relied on judgment. While objectivity is likely to remain an elusive goal in future disputes, increased openness and acknowledgment of interest may be the most promising path to minimizing conflict.

Keywords

Conservation biology Democracy Environmental conflict Land use Objectivity Vermont 

References

  1. Austin, M. P. (2005). Vegetation and environment: Discontinuities and continuities. In E. van der Maarel (Ed.), Vegetation ecology (pp. 52–84). Malden, MA: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  2. Baker, W. L. (1992). The landscape ecology of large disturbances in the design and management of nature reserves. Landscape Ecology, 7, 181–194.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bakhtin, M. (1984). Rabelais and his world (H. Iswolsky Trans.). Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Benhabib, S. (1992). Models of public space: Hannah Arendt, the Liberal Tradition and Jürgen Habermas. In C. Calhoun (Ed.), Habermas and the public sphere (pp. 73–98). Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  5. Botkin, D. B. (1990). Discordant harmonies : A new ecology for the twenty-first century. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Bourdieu, P. (1991). Political representation: Elements for a theory of the political field. In J. B. Thompson (Ed.) G. Raymond and M. Adamson (trans.) Language and symbolic power (pp. 171–202). Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Brandenburg, A. M., & Carroll, M. S. (1995). Your place or mine? The effect of place creation on environmental values and landscape meanings. Society and Natural Resources, 8, 381–398.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cogbill, C. (2001). Natural ecological processes affecting the Nulhegan basin. Unpublished report to Vermont Agency of Natural Resources.Google Scholar
  9. Dahl, R. A. (1998). On democracy. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Dobson, A. (2000). Green political thought (3rd ed.). London and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  11. Dryzek, J. S. (2000). Deliberative democracy and beyond: Liberals, critics, contestations. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Eley, G. (1992). Nations, publics and political cultures: Placing Habermas in the nineteenth century. In C. Calhoun (Ed.), Habermas and the public sphere (pp. 289–339). Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  13. Foucault, M. (1972). The archaeology of knowledge (A. M. Sheridan Smith, Trans.). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  14. Fraser, N. (1992). Rethinking the public sphere: A contribution to the critique of actually existing democracy. In C. Calhoun (Ed.), Habermas and the public sphere (pp. 109–142). Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  15. Gramsci, A. (1971). The study of philosophy. In Q. Hoare & G. N. Smith (Ed. and Trans.). Selections from the prison notebooks (pp. 321–377). New York: International Publishers.Google Scholar
  16. Grossman, D. H., Faber-Langendoen, D., Weakley, A. S., Anderson, M., Bourgeron, P., Crawford, R., et al. (1998). International classification of ecological communities: Terrestrial vegetation of the United States. Volume I. The national vegetation classification system: Development, status and applications. Arlington, VA: The Nature Conservancy.Google Scholar
  17. Gunderson, L. H., & Holling, C. S. (Eds.). (2002). Panarchy: Understanding transformations in human and natural systems. Washington: Island Press.Google Scholar
  18. Habermas, J. (1989). The structural transformation of the public sphere: An inquiry into a category of bourgeois society. (T. Burger with the assistance of F. Lawrence, Trans.). Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  19. Harvey, D. (1996). Justice, nature and the geography of difference. Malden, Mass: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  20. Head, B. W. (2007). Community engagement: Participation on whose terms? Australian Journal of Political Science, 42, 441–454.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Lackey, R. L. (2007). Science, scientists, and policy advocacy. Conservation Biology, 21, 12–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Landes, J. B. (1998). The public and private sphere: A feminist reconsideration. In J. B. Landes (Ed.), Feminism, the public and the private (pp. 135–163). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Latour, B. (1999). Pandora’s hope: Essays on the reality of science studies. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Mansbridge, J. (1990). Feminism and democracy. The American Prospect, 1, 126–139.Google Scholar
  25. McCarthy, J. (2002). First world political ecology: Lessons from the wise use movement. Environment and Planning A, 34, 1281–1302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Moats, D. (2004). Civil wars: The battle for gay marriage. Orlando, Fla: Harcourt.Google Scholar
  27. Noss, R. F. (1987). From plant communities to landscapes in conservation inventories: A look at the nature conservancy (USA). Biological Conservation, 41, 11–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Noss, R. F., & Cooperrider, A. Y. (1994). Saving nature’s legacy: Protecting and restoring biodiversity. Washington, DC: Island Press.Google Scholar
  29. Outram, D. (1989). The body and the French revolution: Sex, class and political culture. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Poiani, K., Richter, B. D., Anderson, M. G., & Richter, H. E. (2000). Biodiversity conservation at multiple scales: Functional sites, landscapes and networks. BioScience, 50, 133–146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Pressman, J. L., & Wildavsky, A. B. (1973). Implementation: How great expectations in Washington are dashed in Oakland. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  32. Robinson, J. B. (1992). Risks, predictions and other optical illusions: Rethinking the use of science in social decision-making. Policy Sciences, 25, 237–254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Saward, M. (1993). Green democracy? In A. Dobson & P. Lucardie (Eds.), The politics of nature: Explorations in green political theory (pp. 63–80). London and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  34. Stern, P. C. (2005). Deliberative methods for understanding environmental systems. BioScience, 55, 976–982.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Takacs, D. (1996). The idea of biodiversity: Philosophies of paradise. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins.Google Scholar
  36. Thompson, E. H., & Sorenson, E. R. (2000). Wetland, Woodland, Wildland: A guide to the natural communities of Vermont. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England.Google Scholar
  37. Vermont Land Trust (2001). Corrected grant of development rights, conservation restrictions and public access easement.Google Scholar
  38. Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (VANR) (1999). Lands conservation plan: A land acquisition strategy for the agency of natural resources. Google Scholar
  39. Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (VANR) (2002). Management plan for west mountain wildlife management area. Google Scholar
  40. Young, I. M. (1990). Justice and the politics of difference. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of TorontoTorontoCanada

Personalised recommendations