Moderator Blog Post by: Jessica Marx
Jared Taber examined the interplay between conservation and livelihoods in his paper “Establishing the Hunting Season in Missouri: Wildlife restoration and State Authority: 1930-1970.” Local interests and wildlife science merged to establish a wild turkey hunting season beginning in the 1930s. While wildlife was managed at the state level, conservation scientists engaged residents to support research and restoration of the turkey population. Jared’s research highlights the importance of utilizing local knowledge through the state’s recognition of the community and local hunters. The inclusion of the community’s interests rendered an environmental success story due to the dramatic comeback of the turkey population.
Panel participants questioned if environmental triumphs can be branded as successes versus failures. How can we gauge success? Historically, there has been a lack of incorporation of local knowledge in relation to what we call nature or environmental issues. Community based approaches to wildlife management seem to be the best way to realize a “success story.” But, in this case specifically, what is the difference between residential science and local ecological knowledge? The establishment of the hunting season in Missouri merges these concepts by incorporating both scientists and local hunters into the project.
Robin Sullivan’s paper, “Synthetic Seasons: Fall Foliage, Tourism, and Techno-Nature,” investigates the boundaries of nature – how we experience, understand, and relate to nature and our constructed view of nature. Specifically in this workshop, Robin presented the “Fall” season and how people have come to experience it via technology. She questions how the general public views something as “real” nature, such as fall foliage, through iPhone applications, online media, and other mediums. But, is this “techno-nature” an authentic experience, or a created experience? What is “true” and “un-true” nature? In her paper, Robin delves into constructed ideas of wilderness in the early 20th century compared to the present day. Is techno-nature a modern construction or does it go back to conservation efforts in the early 20th century, such as wildlife restoration in Missouri?
In the workshop, panel participants discussed how technology allows for a newly constructed dissemination of how we see the natural world. The experience of nature can be understood as one of labor versus leisure, i.e. the privileged view of nature through an iPhone application versus the experience of nature through hiking or farming. In questioning these experiences as true or untrue, panel participants discussed, ‘What is authenticity based on? What is the meaning of the experience?’ As Robin describes in her paper, this authenticity is “complex and nuanced.” The authenticity of techno-nature transforms ones experience with nature, whether it may be through an IMAX theater or adapting to the hunting season in Missouri.
The themes of tourism and recreation surfaced throughout the discussion of both papers. The experience of recreation (the turkey hunting season) mirrors the experience of techno-nature of “wilderness” in various media forms. Techno-nature can be experienced as tourism in the sense that one can consume nature – such as the fall season. Nature is social; the experience of nature is influenced by culture – which is evident through both papers. The juxtaposition of these two seemingly different papers made for quite an interesting workshop and discussion.