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Contested estuary ontologies: The conflict over dredging the Elbe river, Germany.
Department of Geography at Kiel University
The ongoing fairway adaptation of the Elbe Estuary is one of the most contested infrastructure projects in Germany in recent years. After a 17-year, highly contested planning process, delayed by a number of court proceedings the dredging works started in 2019. The current dredging will establish a depth of at least 17.40 m below mean sea level, permitting the port to handle larger container vessels. NGOs, fishers, and the riverine municipalities claim that the dredging will lead to habitat destruction and end fishery in the estuary. The conflict illustrates that knowledge production, political economy, and power are deeply intertwined, and provides evidence that some planning conflicts go even deeper than this. They are ultimately rooted in different ‘estuary ontologies’, in the different ways in which nature is enacted, and imagined of possible futures for the estuary and its riverine population. Based on qualitative interviews with the actors who are involved in, observe or fight against the intervention, and on a content analysis of press articles and webpages, we unravel the complex relations between political economy, knowledge production, and the different performances of reality which characterize the ongoing conflict over the fairway adaptation. We relate competing narratives, knowledge claims, and ontologies to actors promoting and challenging the fairway adaptation. Finally, we identify multiple estuary realities which are enacted by specific practices performed by fishers, port authorities, and environmental NGOs.
Everyday life and knowledge production processes on a German research vessel in the Labrador Sea: Heterotopia par excellence?
German Development Institute (DIE/GDI)
Research vessels are facilitating research on the vast ocean defying weather, time, and space, thus allowing scientific knowledge production that is of crucial importance for understanding marine systems and climate change. But what exactly happens onboard a research vessel? Which role does the vessel play in scientific knowledge production in marine research? Which internal and external factors affect knowledge production? The study explores these questions using the example of a German research vessel on a seven-week geomorphological expedition in the North Atlantic and the Labrador Sea. It empirically assesses everyday life on a research vessel including the scientist’s and crewmember’s social interactions as well as the technology dependence and spatiality that both influence data collection, processing, and analysis. The research is rooted in Knowledge Sociology and conceptually guided by Science and Technology Studies (STS). Methodologically, the study uses ethnographic methods including participant observation, respective field notes, photo and film documentation of work processes, and semi-structured interviews with representatives of the research vessel’s crew and scientists. The findings shed light on the physical, socio-cultural, and communicative construction of scientific facts and the organization of work at sea.
Inquiring conservation success: Water for beer, the rest for the people
Jean Carlo Rodriguez
German Development Institute (DIE/GDI)
Companies paying to save nature are criticized from the moral perspective that it is wrong to put a price tag on nature and that this is the preamble of nature privatization. Promoters argue that such strategies are beneficial in that downstream ecosystem service beneficiaries incentivize conservation by upstream land managers while helping to reduce poverty. Drawing upon an empirical case where an international beer company pays for forest conservation in the department of Cundinamarca in Colombia, I analyze the politics of water distribution and the configuration of conservation success by the different actors involved. The concepts used in this paper include politics of scale, power, hydrosocial territories, and environmental justice. The methods used include a literature review and semi-structured interviews. While 1100 hectares of forest and páramos, vital for water provision, are under conservation agreements, water distribution politics allocate most of the water rights to those with economic power while limiting local communities' access (even for human consumption). The paper argues that apolitical conservation characterizes the increase or maintenance in the provision of ecosystem services as a "success" as it is not concerned with understanding how these services are distributed in society through legal mechanisms or hydraulic infrastructure and their ultimate social implications.