Envisioning Emergent Environments: Negotiating science & resource management in rural communities

Envisioning Emergent Environments

Belize is a small country on the Caribbean coast of Central America, currently addressing the challenge of developing effective policies to manage its vulnerability to environmental hazards. As part of efforts towards sustainable development goals, governmental and non-governmental bodies are undertaking data-led 'watershed management' projects to assess and manage not only water but also land, ecosystem and human aspects of resource stewardship. Belize's history of rural development and conservation interventions has been complicated by legacies of colonialism, indigenous land rights struggles, territorial disputes and past failed projects. Given this context, this research will examine what contemporary watershed management interventions mean and entail for rural residents whose lives and livelihoods depend on the environments in question.

Using theoretical tools from anthropology, science & technology studies, and political ecology, the analysis will shed new light on the conceptual and practical implications of watershed management. By tracing interactions between rural residents and the scientists, government representatives, land developers, NGOs and civil society organisations with whom they negotiate environmental knowledge, the study will examine the processes of translation and participation that may or may not occur during scientific environmental assessments and management interventions. Importantly - and relevant to contexts beyond the Belizean case study - it will ask whether emerging technologies and scientific practices including remote data collection and 'citizen science' raise new challenges and/or opportunities for effective and equitable human-environment engagements in small developing countries. The ultimate aim is to advance original understandings of how tensions between different ways of knowing and valuing environments can generate new social and environmental outcomes.