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An Evaluation of the Inclusivity of the Conservation Biology and Ecology Concentration at Arizona State University

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The mainstream American environmental movement has a reputation for being ethnically homogenous (i.e., white), especially within the field of conservation. Low minority involvement has been noted and discussed in the

The mainstream American environmental movement has a reputation for being ethnically homogenous (i.e., white), especially within the field of conservation. Low minority involvement has been noted and discussed in the conservation literature and within environmental organizations, but these discussions aren't always informed by the explicit social justice concerns critical to understanding the complex intersection of environmental and social issues. Communities of color have expressed concern for environmental and conservation issues, but often frame those issues in a different way than is common in mainstream conservation science, a framing that we can appreciate through a deeper analysis of the values and goals of the environmental justice (EJ) movement. A more thorough inclusion of EJ principles could be an effective method to increase ethnic diversity in the field of conservation, particularly within higher education conservation programs like the Conservation Biology and Ecology (CBE) concentration at Arizona State University. This thesis frames the broader challenge of diversity in conservation, the history and current state of the conservation movement, and the history of the environmental justice movement via a literature review. I then evaluate the university's CBE program on the basis of its diversity through an analysis of demographic data on undergraduate ethnicity from the School of Life Sciences. I conclude with a series of recommendations for enhancing the diversity of ASU's CBE program moving forward.

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  • 2016-12

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National Parks: Preserving the American Concept of Wilderness

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In “The Trouble of Wilderness,” William Cronon (1995) states the concept of wilderness, historically, is based on the romanticized ideal of the “untamed” frontier that influenced the American expansion ideals

In “The Trouble of Wilderness,” William Cronon (1995) states the concept of wilderness, historically, is based on the romanticized ideal of the “untamed” frontier that influenced the American expansion ideals in the late 1800s and early 1900s, including the initial conservation movement. This idea of wilderness is defined by “empty” lands that needed to be utilized by the civilized Anglo-Americans, or lands that needed to be preserved from human alterations. Wilderness was separate from humans and, therefore, was also thought to be land that had been unaltered by human touch. The disappearing frontier was being turned into farmlands and civilization, so the Anglo-Americans, the ones who culturally viewed undeveloped land as a place for recreation, wished to save the ‘wilderness’ that was not yet being used. But as will be discussed it was in fact being used just not by the Anglo-Americans. This wilderness that they were trying to preserve became the national parks, such as Yellowstone and Yosemite. Under this rationale, Indigenous peoples were forced off the land to create the illusion of these places fitting this romanticized idea of wilderness. This essay examines the national parks in context of this concept of wilderness being free from humans and how national parks rationalized the removal of Indigenous people from these “wild” lands by using this concept of wilderness. Specifically, it uses the history of Yellowstone and Yosemite parks, which are some of the first parks to enter the National Park System, as sites of understanding how the idea wilderness was conceptualized by the American government during the late 1800s as places that are separate from humans. This essay argues that these ideals are based on racist and xenophobic approaches that the early United States government used in regards to relationships with Indigenous people. To discuss these ideas, this paper will examine the language used in early government documents regarding the policies of the national parks along with art and writings from this time period to show how the public and government viewed these national parks and the Indigenous people in the surrounding areas. Particularly, this paper will consider the original documents that established the national parks and the language that was used in these documents. It will then compare these policies from the origins of the national parks to the policies in place now regarding Indigenous people, such as the reparations that are trying to be made in these areas.

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  • 2020-05

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Multi-scale analysis of the opportunities and threats of large-scale land acquisitions (LaSLA) to the sustainable development of Sub-Saharan Africa (with a focus on Tanzania)

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Large-scale land acquisition (LaSLA), also called "land grabbing" refers to the buying or leasing of large tracts of land, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) by foreign investors to produce food

Large-scale land acquisition (LaSLA), also called "land grabbing" refers to the buying or leasing of large tracts of land, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) by foreign investors to produce food and biofuel to send back home. Since 2007, LaSLA has become an important development issue due to the opportunities and threats for SSA countries. LaSLA has the potential to create local jobs, transfer technology, build infrastructure, and modernize SSA's agriculture. Nonetheless, it can also aggravate food insecurity, perpetuate corruption, degrade ecosystems, cause conflicts, and displace local communities. What drives LaSLA, what are its impacts on local people, and under what circumstances can we consider it as just and ethical?

To examine what drives LaSLA, I used country level data from 2005 to 2013 on economic conditions, natural resources, business practices, and governance to estimate LaSLA models. I find that LaSLA increases with increasing government effectiveness, land prices, and the ease of doing business, and decreases with stronger regulatory regimes. To assess LaSLA's impacts on local people, I conducted a comparative case study in Tanzania. I compare changes in peoples' livelihood between treatment villages (those experiencing LaSLA) and control villages (those without LaSLA projects). The results show that under current practices, the risks of LaSLA outweigh the benefits to local livelihoods, yet there are potential benefits if LaSLA is implemented correctly.

To philosophically examine whether LaSLA can be considered just and ethical, I apply John Rawls' theory of justice. The analysis indicates that from both procedural and distributive justice perspective, LaSLA currently fails to satisfy Rawlsian principles of justice. From these analyses, I conclude that if implemented correctly, LaSLA can produce a win-win outcome for both investors and host countries. I suggest that strong governance, rigorous environmental and social impact assessment, and inclusion of local people at all levels of LaSLA decision making are critical for sustainable and equitable outcomes.

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  • 2017

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Visions for sustainable energy transformations: integrating power and politics in the Mediterranean Region

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This dissertation examines the nexus of three trends in electricity systems transformations underway worldwide—the scale-up of renewable energy, regionalization, and liberalization. Interdependent electricity systems are being envisioned that require partnershi

This dissertation examines the nexus of three trends in electricity systems transformations underway worldwide—the scale-up of renewable energy, regionalization, and liberalization. Interdependent electricity systems are being envisioned that require partnership and integration across power disparities. This research explores how actors in the Mediterranean region envisioned a massive scale-up of renewable energy within a single electricity system and market across Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. It asks: How are regional sociotechnical systems envisioned? What are the anticipated consequences of a system for a region with broad disparities and deep sociopolitical differences? What can be learned about energy justice by examining this vision at multiple scales? A sociotechnical systems framework is used to analyze energy transformations, interweaving the technical aspects with politics, societal effects, and political development issues. This research utilized mixed qualitative methods to analyze Mediterranean electricity transformations at multiple scales, including fieldwork in Morocco and Germany, document analysis, and event ethnography. Each scale—from a global history of concentrating solar power technologies to a small village in Morocco—provides a different lens on the sociotechnical system and its implications for justice. This study updates Thomas Hughes’ Networks of Power, the canonical history of the sociotechnical development of electricity systems, by adding new aspects to sociotechnical electricity systems theory. First, a visioning process now plays a crucial role in guiding innovation and has a lasting influence on the justice outcomes. Second, rather than simply providing people with heat and light, electrical power systems in the 21st century are called upon to address complex integrated solutions. Furthermore, building a sustainable energy system is now a retrofitting agenda, as system builders must graft new infrastructure on top of old systems. Third, the spatial and temporal aspects of sociotechnical energy systems should be amended to account for constructed geography and temporal complexity. Fourth, transnational electricity systems pose new challenges for politics and political development. Finally, this dissertation presents a normative framework for conceptualizing and evaluating energy justice. Multi-scalar, systems-level justice requires collating diverse ideas about energy justice, expanding upon them based on the empirical material, and evaluating them with this framework.

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  • 2015