Global Perspectives on River Conservation: Science, Policy, and Practice

By P. J. Boon; B. R. Davies et al. | Go to book overview

21
Popular participation in river conservation
K.B. Showers
Introduction
The 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), often referred to as ‘The Earth Summit’, focused attention on the importance of popular participation in environmental issues. The Summit’s resulting documents, The Rio Declaration and Agenda 21: Programme of Action for Sustainable Development, recognized networks of formal, informal and grassroots movements active in environmental conservation as important sources of action at the local level (UNCED, 1993). Agenda 21 called for governments to seek new techniques for popular participation in planning, decision-making and implementation of projects.Members of the public have participated in river conservation since the late 19th century either in association with government-sponsored programmes or in formal or informal citizen groups. In some instances partnerships evolved between citizen groups and government agencies, while in others citizen groups opposed government decisions that endangered river quality or function. Since the Earth Summit, some nations and international agencies have increased efforts to identify and work with citizen groups concerned with river conservation.This chapter provides a general discussion of different conceptualizations of conservation and reviews categories of river conservation activities. Examples from around the world demonstrate citizen involvement, the significance of international computer networks to river conservationists, and the relationship between environmental rights and human rights.
Attitudes to rivers and river conservation
The definitions of a river, river conservation and acceptable uses of river environments depend upon how nature and ecosystem components are valued. Lemons and Saboski (1994) suggest that theories of the value of nature can be broadly grouped into three categories:
anthropocentrism – where all value in non-human nature is instrumental value and dependent upon contributions to some human values;
inherentism – where all value in non-human nature is dependent on human consciousness, but some of this value does not derive from human values;
intrinsicalism – where some value in nature is independent of human values and human consciousness.

Anthropocentrism allows the commodification of all aspects of nature, assigning monetary value in terms of utility to human society. Components of an ecosystem that are recognized as useful are referred to as ‘natural resources’. Assessment of the worth of natural resources depends upon a knowledge of their biology and ecology in order to link them to human benefits. Those elements of the natural world that do not have measurable conventional values are considered to be ‘non-resources’ (Lemons and Saboski, 1994). This approach has led to a description of the natural world as an accumulation of separate objects, each with an economic value.

Considering function to be as important as natural resources, Costanza et al. (1997) found a way to value

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