Physical Fences and Social Boundaries: The Human Implications of Privatizing Nature in Patagonia Park

Authors: Ellen Sizer*,
Topics: Cultural Geography, Latin America, Environmental Perception
Keywords: Political ecology, Patagonia Park, conservationism
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/14/2018
Start / End Time: 4:00 PM / 5:40 PM
Room: Bacchus, Marriott, River Tower Elevators, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Ellen Sizer
Senior Geology Major and Human Geography Minor
Ohio Wesleyan University
AAG 2017: Abstract submission

Patagonia Park has undergone a huge shift in the last decade. Monetary investments made by American entrepreneurs, Doug and Kris Tompkins, have transformed the property from the fenced-in cattle ranch that stood for over a century into an international ecotourism destination with remarkable and inspiring landscapes. In January 2017, I traveled to Patagonia Park to learn more about the park's purpose and its impact on local communities. Although its founders and followers forged the park’s vision with good intentions, my research suggests that there are clear social implications related to the creation of the park. The fences might have been taken down physically, but new ones were put up socially. In this paper, I argue that creation of Patagonia Park constructed social boundaries through (1) the park’s design, (2) how local ideals of nature conflicted those of the park’s staff and supporters, and (3) the varied ways that the park and its mission were experienced and perceived. This research suggests that environmental actions can have social implications by revealing the cultural politics that private conservation parks can forge to accommodate certain identities and reproduce inequality.

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