Politics and power in managing data on zero deforestation: Lessons and challenges for integrating multi-disciplinary natural and social science methods

Authors: Izabela Delabre*, University of Sussex, Anthony Alexander, University of Sussex, Pedram Rowhani, University of Sussex, Alexander Antonarakis, University of Sussex
Topics: Remote Sensing, Qualitative Research, Rural Geography
Keywords: qualitative methods; quantitative methods; data management; knowledge politics; justice; non-timber forest products
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Jackson, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper discusses the intersection of remote sensing and qualitative social-scientific methods used to examine the social and ecological effects of zero deforestation initiatives in specific case study sites in Latin America. We explore the integration of data derived from: (1) local conservation monitoring practices, such as through the use of acoustic monitoring and data obtained from citizen scientists or ‘parabiologists’, (2) qualitative and quantitative site-specific social, economic, and cultural data, and (3) satellite observations. These datasets contribute different perspectives: for example, on the ground, forest lands may be used and governed in contested ways that are not visible in satellite images, whilst satellite images usefully determine global patterns such as forest regrowth in one region or unsustainable use elsewhere. The quantification of tropical forest loss on a global scale and its subsequent interpretation has important policy implications. Through critical conversations and engagements, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary researchers pose important new research questions, thus revealing opportunities for potentially more holistic analyses of social-ecological systems and sustainability. We argue that integrating remote sensing and qualitative social-scientific research requires conceptual and methodological pluralism to consider multiple scales and stakeholders, with careful attention to questions of governance, power and justice, for example: who collects and uses particular datasets, how, on whose behalf and to what effect. Furthermore, careful consideration is needed of the knowledge politics and governmentalities represented by particular datasets, and of the values and ideologies that shape and constrain this research and associated policy narratives.

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