Human Ecology

, Volume 27, Issue 3, pp 477–491 | Cite as

The Power of Environmental Knowledge: Ethnoecology and Environmental Conflicts in Mexican Conservation

  • Nora Haenn


Theory in political ecology emphasizes the role of competing interests in shaping resource use. Although supportive of these approaches, this article draws on the importance of meanings assigned to ecological systems to question how epistemological differences also contribute to environmental conflicts. Following calls to examine the interface between environmental knowledge and action, consideration is given to ethnoecological constructs of forests on Mexico's southern Yucatan peninsula, home to the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve. To quiet opposition to the Reserve, government agents increased financial aid to the region in the form of conservation development projects. With the counsel of a Reserve director, local residents effectively used these projects to press for an environmentalism based on sustainable resource use. This position has associations with a local ethnoecology of land as a place of work. In examining how ethnoecologies played out in contests surrounding conservation, possibilities for a localized, alternative environmentalism are discussed, as well as the importance of environmental constructs for research in political ecology.



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© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1999

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  • Nora Haenn

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