National parks and conservation in a hybrid world — ASN Events

National parks and conservation in a hybrid world (14438)

Catherine Ayres 1
  1. Australian National University, Acton, ACT, Australia

Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s recent remark that forestry workers are “the ultimate conservationists” is just one example of contemporary debates surrounding national parks and conservation politics. There is a sense that the fate of Australia’s national parks is entirely in the hands of the government of the day. This understanding of national parks assumes human control over the processes, fluxes and flows of life throughout national park areas. However, in light of recent attention to nonhuman agencies and capacities of all manner of things to affect and be affected, such a subject-centred environmental politics of national parks is inadequate in understanding the complex ways national parks come into being and endure through time.

In this paper I will explore how contemporary social theory engaging with nonhuman, distributive agencies might compel us to rethink some fundamental environmental concepts and practices: Do notions such as ‘conservation’ serve us well in hybrid world(ing)s? Might concepts such as Spinoza’s conatus help us to rethink what we mean by ‘ecological sustainability’? I will pose these questions in relation to national parks and nonrepresentational theories, drawing on my current empirical research on three nature reserve spaces in the Australian Capital Territory.