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Mapping and making resilient rural communities

Authors: Danielle DiNovelli-Lang*, Carleton University, Karen H├ębert, Carleton University
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Polar Regions
Keywords: labor, Alaska, rural communities, resilience, complex-adaptive systems, stewardship
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Over the past several years a coordinated effort to map and remap the ecosystems of the Tongass National Forest and Bristol Bay headlands, in Southeastern and Southwestern Alaska respectively, has deployed new ecological thinking to demonstrate the interdependency of smaller and larger-scale socio-ecological systems. Healthy communities, for instance, are shown to depend upon and nurture healthy watersheds, which are necessary to support healthy regional economies and ecosystems, and vice-versa. In order to display these relationships, the new maps de-emphasize geopolitical jurisdictional boundaries, such as those between federal, state, and Alaska Native corporation land, in favor of ecologically-meaningful boundaries, such as watersheds; and they tend to situate human communities as stewards of the latter rather than as constituents of the former. The maps thus reflect a wider shift away from notions of environmental and economic sustainability, and the forms of labor and resource management these imply, and towards the paradigm of resilience in socio-ecological systems, and, implicitly, a new regime. What does this ascendant regime mean for rural Alaskan communities that suddenly find themselves nested inside complex adaptive systems which they can negatively or positively transform but not control? What obligations and opportunities accompany membership in a socio-ecological community for those human subjects who have long navigated the no-less-complex landscape of corporate extractivism, state resource management, federal Indian law, and other-than-human kinship? Most critically, which forms of labor are harnessed to sustain socio-ecological resilience at the community level, and which are likely to be dismissed or condemned as negatively adaptive?

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