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Conservation Narratives: How stories shape the evolving conservation landscape

Authors: Elena Louder*, University of Arizona
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Environment, Global Change
Keywords: Narrative, Biodiversity Conservation
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2020
Start / End Time: 8:40 AM / 9:55 AM
Room: Virtual Track 1
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Narratives shape human understanding and underscore policy, practice, and action. From individuals to multilateral institutions, we act based on the stories we tell ourselves and each other. As such, narratives have important implications for biodiversity conservation. Growing calls from the conservation field suggest that it is time for a ‘new narrative’ to underpin efforts to address biodiversity decline. For example, organizations call for more optimism, a more people centered narrative, or a narrative which foregrounds technological advances. This review presents some of the main contemporary narratives from within the biodiversity space to reflect on their underpinning categories, myths and causal assumptions. It begins by reviewing various interpretations of narrative, which range from critical views where narrative is a heuristic for understanding structures of domination, to advocacy approaches where it is a tool for re-imagining ontologies and transitioning to sustainable futures. Finally, this work identifies productive tensions, unanswered questions and areas ripe for debate in a considering ‘a new narrative’ for conservation.

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