The political ecology playbook for ecosystem restoration: Principles for effective, equitable, and transformative landscapes
Globally, land degradation and forest loss continue despite an increasing number of projects working towards ecological restoration. The authors of this paper argue that one of the reasons that restoration projects have been unable to achieve their goals and ensure ecological resilience is that they ignore the underlying issues of political inequity and injustice that drive ecological degradation.
Research Goals & Methods
The authors draw on research from the field of political ecology, which aims to understand environmental issues by examining power, politics, and equity within specific socioecological contexts. They identify 10 principles for restoration practices at the local, national, and global scales.
Conclusions & Takeaways
Several decades of research within political ecology has shown that social and ecological systems are interlinked and ecosystems are shaped by unequal power relations which can lead to conflict over the access to resources. Further, market-driven or technical solutions to address degradation that ignore these power imbalances can create unintended consequences and worsen social and ecological outcomes by reinforcing unequal power relations.
The authors identify 10 principles to inform action at the local, national, and international levels and they identify strategies to incorporate these principles into restoration practices. The 10 principles include: (1) valuing local knowledge and practices, (2) ensuring that those who are most impacted participate in restoration programs, (3) ensuring socioenvironmental justice, (4) aligning restoration practices with local needs and aspirations, (5) aligning state policies to support restoration, (6) empowering local decision makers, (7) promoting regenerative interventions, (8) prioritizing social and ecological benefits, (9) fair and equitable funding, and (10) cross-country collaboration. The authors argue that creating resilient ecosystems will require systemic changes that address underlying power structures and allow humans to relate to the natural world based on an ethic of care and reciprocity.
The political ecology playbook for ecosystem restoration: Principles for effective, equitable, and transformative landscapes. Global Environmental Change. 2021;70:102320. doi:10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2021.102320.
- University of California, Merced
- Yale University
- University of Connecticut, Storrs
- World Agroforestry (ICRAF)
- Indiana University Bloomington
- University of British Columbia