Papers

Mark Carey (University of Oregon)

“Climate Change and National Parks: How Global Warming Discourse has Shaped US Views of International Parks”

This paper will critically analyze the ways in which climate change narratives and global warming discourse in the United States has constructed national parks abroad.  Since the 1980s, fears of climate-induced environmental changes have highlighted the impacts that will occur (or already have occurred) in national parks in particular.  These parks that protect landscapes and ecosystems such as rain forests, coastal zones, and glacier-covered mountains are often identified as hot spots for global warming impacts.  To be sure, future climate change could trigger devastating environmental transformations.  But the global nature of climate change discussions generates a key question about national parks as well: To what degree has the international framing of global warming in national parks influenced views not only of national parks but also of the role of the nation state and national understandings of national parks?  Within this broader question, this paper grapples with two fundamental questions about the recent historical relationship between national parks and climate change framing.  (1) Have global warming narratives generally incorporated dominant western, wealthy, urban, and elite views of national parks as playgrounds, sites for spiritual rejuvenation, and lucrative landscapes for economic development through tourism—places that non-locals manage and consume, often at the expense of the people who live nearby.  Critics of climate change models and global warming framing have noted already that it tends to ignore or even disempower local residents.  Or, (2) have global warming discussions opened up new opportunities to place parks in local or national contexts because the emphasis on regional landscapes and specific ecosystem services or natural resources, such as water supplies, inherently generates more local concerns than global ones?  But by taking a longer-term view of national park perceptions within climate discourse—a view that engages with both the contested history of national parks and the vibrant but critical historiography on parks—this essay puts both national parks and climate change discourse in comparative, international, and historical context.  The paper hypothesizes that a more critical examination of climate change discourse directed specifically at national parks reveals that global warming narratives have been smuggling in the same types of romantic, recreation-focused stories about national parks that date back a century or so.  Despite more than two-decades of scholarly attacks on the conception of wilderness and the ways that national park preservation within and beyond the United States has often served imperialist projects, the Yellowstone Model seems to be healthy, pervasive, and abundant within much of the climate change discussions.

Jane Carruthers (University of South Africa)

“’Why celebrate a controversy?’ South Africa, the United States, and national parks, c.1900 to 2003”

South Africa hosted the Fifth World Parks Congress in Durban in 2003. For the occasion, South African National Parks (SANParks), the organization tasked with managing the protected area estate that is the responsibility of central government,[1] published a glossy, illustrated commemorative book entitled South African National Parks: A Celebration.[2] In the preface, Dr Hector Magome, then Director of Conservation Services at SANParks, asked the burning question “Why celebrate a controversy?”[3] Since the time of their inception at a political turning point in South African white politics in the mid-1920s, national parks and other protected areas in South Africa have been highly controversial.

In this regard they appear to have generated very different emotions from those in the United States where, for probably the majority of citizens, “national parks have become a source of patriotic pride, highlighting not only the grandeur and diversity of the national landscape, but also the benevolent farsightedness of the Federal Government in preserving the ‘American’ environment. The executive summary of the recently published Second Century Report (2009) begins with distinctly nationalist language: ‘Americans have a deep and enduring love for the national parks, places we treasure because they embody our highest ideas and values. National parks tell our stories and speak of our identity as a people and as a nation.’”[4] No similar statement about South Africa’s national parks would find favor with the majority of its population.

In his message on the opening page of South African National Parks: A Celebration, Nelson Mandela alluded to some of the reasons for the contested nature of South Africa’s national parks. “Many of our protected areas have their origins in the colonial past and there is a legacy of alienation from the local people who were excluded from enjoying them or benefiting from them in any way.” Mandela believed that, because of its title and mission, “Benefits beyond Boundaries,” the Durban gathering “provides us with the opportunity to break with this history …”[5]

This paper aims to explore some of the controversial aspects of the history of South Africa’s national parks, relating it – where possible – to connections with national parks in the United States and with the rhetoric generated by the term “national park.” In the South African situation, the issue revolves around national politics and the peculiar difficulties that this multi-lingual and multi-racial country has experienced in constructing itself as a “nation.” From their beginnings as “colonial game reserves” with the still-evident rivalries among provinces in the early twentieth century,[6] to the Afrikaner “national” treasure of the Kruger National Park at the height of apartheid, to the strident calls for the abolition of all national parks after the transition to democracy in 1994, South Africa’s protected areas constitute an interesting case study through which to elucidate the contradictions, controversies, contested values and political divergences that are inherent in “national parks.” In other words, this form of land use is a prism through which to identify many of South Africa’s challenges and history.

While presenting a general overview of South Africa’s national park history, the paper focuses in particular on three themes and their referencing to the United States. First, the origins of South Africa’s early national parks; second, the post World War II era, with the rise of Afrikaner domination and apartheid values; and third, the Fifth World Parks Congress and “Benefits beyond Boundaries,” including extending beyond national boundaries (i.e. transfrontier conservation areas) as well as between national parks and neighboring local communities. It is anticipated that by exploring these key junctures an outline of the waxing and waning influence of the United States on South Africa’s protected area estate will emerge.

Ted Catton (University of Montana)

What I’d like to do is present a comparison of the history of US and New Zealand national park systems with emphasis on the changing approaches to nature protection and scientific research, especially post-World War II.  Broadly, the two systems parallel each other in that they each began in the late nineteenth century and gained momentum in the early decades of the twentieth century and were initially centered around tourism development, and in recent years have come to emphasize scientific research and preservation of endangered ecosystems and ecological processes.  Where they differ is that New Zealand national parks administration was quite minimal compared to the US through most of the 20th century as there was not an equivalent pressure of visitor numbers or nearly the level of public support for management and development.  In terms of their approaches to nature protection and scientific research, New Zealand’s challenges in mitigating against invasions by exotic species are much sharper than in US national parks, due to New Zealand’s island biogeography, but its approaches have been conditioned by the relatively minimalist national park administration.  US national parks, on the other hand, have faced greater threats from development pressures such as hydro dams, adjacent mining and lumbering, air pollution, and human population growth.

Chris Conte (Utah State University)

USU has partnered with the Carr Foundation in the restoration work at Gorongosa National Park in central Mozambique.  I have become involved in raising money from USU and from the Carr Foundation to recruit and fully fund graduate student research on the region’s environmental history. I will go to Gorongosa in late June or early July to begin to set things up with park staff and other interested parties. Gorongosa is quite famous as African game parks go, but it was devastated ecologically and socially during the civil war between the FRELIMO government and the rebel group RENAMO (and their proxies). A large section of the park is still covered with land mines and local residents are unhappy with current and proposed evictions, especially on Mt. Gorongosa. Gregg Carr, the philanthropist behind park restoration, has been featured in a National Geographic documentary and recently appeared on 60 minutes. A number of other publications have featured him as a hero, though a fairly critical piece appeared in the Dec. 21, 2009 issue of the New Yorker. At last November’s African Studies Association meeting, I attended a spirited panel dedicated to the controversies surrounding the park’s rehabilitation. I hope to draw upon an already extant oral history collection assembled by one of the park staff and, along with secondary literature, synthesize a history that stresses the interactions of a history of intense violence, ecological change, and restoration efforts in and around the park.

Jose Drummond (Universidade de Brasilia)

“A historical assessment of Brazilian conservation unites – a second look”

(With José Luiz de Andrade Franco and Daniela de Oliveira)

This text provides a historical overview of the formation of the Brazilian conservation unit system as it stood in mid-2010. It updates a previous text that used data valid until 2005. The following dimensions of the 12 types of federal and state protected areas are examined – age, numbers, categories, absolute and average sizes, distribution by states and biomes, and degree of compliance with quantitative CBD-inspired goals. Major findings are that (i) the system maintained the 30-year rapid rate of growth in the number and in the combined area of federal and state units, (ii) national parks and national forests continue to be the most prominent units in the system, in terms both of numbers and of average and cumulative areas, (iii) imbalances in terms of distribution of units by region and biome persist, (iv) state units grew remarkably in area and have almost tied with federal units, (v) state units are strongly biased towards sustainable use, (vi) sustainable use units advanced slightly in their overall predominance over fully protected units, (vii) the most extensively protected biome is by far that of the Amazonian basin/forest/region and (viii) quantitative goals of biome protection proposed by Brazil (under CBD guidelines) are closer to being reached, but the predominance of sustainable use units places doubts on the effectiveness of such goals. Overall, the study concludes that Brazil has made much progress over the last 30 years and reached an outstanding status in the global ranking of its protected areas – fourth in the world, the largest amount of new units created in 2000-2010, and the largest area of tropical formations protected in a single country. Nonetheless, there is still a need for more units of the restrictive categories in several areas of the country. Also, the system has reached a size and a complexity that demands management standards that are far from being reached.

Patrick Kupper (Institut für Geschichte)

This chapter will investigate the scientific approach of national parks. In the twentieth century the national park idea travelled widely around the globe. While the focus in the US national parks for a long time firmly remained on recreation the concept was altered in other places. In Europe, the national park idea achieved prominence concurrently with the advancement of both nature conservation and ecological sciences and thinking. The close involvement of conservation science enhanced the national park discourse with a new set of actors and rationales. The prime mover in this respect was Switzerland with the Swiss National Park established mainly as a laboratory for ecological research.

During the twentieth century doing science in the national parks gained currency on the international level as well as in the US, becoming a vital part of the parks’ global mission. The chapter will review the unfolding of the nexus between scientific research and national parks in specific sites and on the international level. It will ask how the US became involved into this history and highlight how especially US scientific game management was adopted elsewhere.

Alan MacEachern (University of Western Ontario)

“The Canadian and American National Park Systems in the 1910s: Collaboration and Competition”

When established, the Canadian national park system modeled itself on the American one, even borrowing prose from the 1872 Yellowstone Act for the 1887 act creating Banff. By the early twentieth century, the Canadian system rivaled its American cousin. The Canadian Dominion Parks Branch was created in 1911 as the first agency in the world devoted to national parks. That same year, three times as many tourists visited Banff as Yellowstone. A complicated relationship between the two nations’ parks systems developed. On the one hand, there was cooperation: the Canadians were in constant contact about all manner of parks management, even as the Americans used the Canadian agency’s existence to lobby for a U.S. park service. On the other hand, there was a real rivalry: Canada purchased the Pablo, Montana buffalo herd partly in hope of monopolizing the species, for example, and the U.S. created the “See America First” in large part to draw tourists away from the parks of the Canadian Rockies. (Notably, American parks supporter Robert Sterling Yard’s bestseller of this era was the either latitudinally- or topographically-challenged The Top of the Continent.)

My essay examines the relationship between the two nations’ park systems in the 1910s, tracing how they simultaneously supported and challenged one another. One focus is on how communication shaped specific management issues. For example, the Canadian service took advice from the U.S. on why and how to eradicate predators, even as the Americans justified its predator policies on the basis that the species would continue to thrive in Canada and Mexico. A second focus is on what the relationship meant to the systems’ longterm development – and in particular why the period of relative equivalence, in terms of tourist appeal and organization was so short-lived, with Parks Canada clearly the much more junior partner by the 1920s.

Ann McGrath (Australian National University)

“Conquering Sacred Grounds? Climbing Uluru and the Devil’s Monument

By comparing the climbing controversies at Uluru and the Devils Tower, this paper seeks to examine how visitors may be engaging in, if not re-enacting, different kinds of history stories. These remarkable landscape features were each proclaimed part of ‘national parks’ in two settler-coloniser nations, Australia and the United States. Indeed, in 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt declared Devil’s tower in Wyoming the first United States national monument. Before that, it was a sacred site for many American Indians, reportedly known also as Mato Tipila or Bear Lodge. However, despite the protests of indigenous custodians, both rocks remain popular climbing destinations, although the Devils’ Tower demands more intrepid climbers. While Uluru was only declared a national park in 1977, ‘national ownership’ heightened competing assertions of sovereignty. As non-urban icons, the sites seem to stand outside colonialism and possibly outside modernity, evoking the relative ‘timelessness’ of geological time. Yet, as contested sites of cultural authority, the impulse to ‘preserve’ them and ‘conquer’ them have become curiously entwined. James Clifford’s Routes: Travel and translation in the twentieth century (1997) provides a valuable reflective starting point, as do Indigenous journey stories. One of the main aims of this paper is to consider how different historical and contemporary journeys in place reinforce both shared and divergent interests in landscape, and how these might play out in mapping historical practice into the future. Albeit briefly, this paper thus touches upon Indigenous and non-Indigenous ideas about travel, history-making, landscape and nation in two ‘New World’ nations. By moving through landscape, the traveler potentially reinserts herself into a meaningful narrative of history and heritage. However, although tourists crave authentic experiences of ‘cultural tourism’, including those signifying longer Indigenous histories of connection, it appears that they strongly resist having their ‘discovery’ activities curbed by any such beliefs.

Steve Rodriguez (UCLA)

“Whose Paradise?  Nationalism and National Parks during the Suharto Regime (1967-98)”

In my paper I will discuss the divergent attitudes towards national parks within the Indonesian public sphere during the Suharto regime (1967-98). The goal of my research will be to reveal how these debates on nature heritage were useful for articulating Indonesian identity and the values to which Indonesians aspired. I will argue that Suharto’s national parks project created friction among the Indonesian communities. The privileging of management models that emphasized biodiversity led to the development of national parks that were meaningless to most Indonesians. Instead of providing locations of national identity and regeneration, these parks engendered antipathy and became sources of division between the different Indonesian cultures and classes. In conclusion, I will discuss the domestic attitudes towards Mount Bromo, historically one of Indonesia’s most popular nature areas. I will suggest that this location, celebrated for its sublime landscape rather than its biodiversity, may have provided a more substantial national parks model for linking nature and nation in Indonesia.

Karen Routledge (Parks Canada)

My paper will investigate the relationship between the Canadian and US national park systems at Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.

Emily Wakild (Wake Forest University)

“Temperate by Tropical: Towards a Comparative Regional Framework for Parks in South America”

In his popular 1914 book, Through the Brazilian Wilderness, former American President Theodore Roosevelt took a concept he helped popularize—wilderness—into a wholly new context, that of the vast tropical expanses of South America.  While he transferred the concept in the title of the book and his own world view, it lost some of its inviting romance and became a barrier, for instance, Roosevelt explained “The tropical forest came down almost like a wall, the tall trees laced together with vines, and the spaces between their trunks filled with a low, dense jungle. In most places it could only be penetrated by a man with a machete.”(Roosevelt, 1921: 139) Roosevelt himself suffered immense physical hardship, including contracting malaria, suffering an infected leg wound, and losing more than fifty pounds, yet he emerged from the journey and later had a river named after him.  Roosevelt was not alone in his travels; he was part of the joint Roosevelt-Rondon Scientific Expedition, supported in part by the American Museum of Natural History.

Scientific expeditions like the one taken by Roosevelt played a formative role in exploring and explaining wild, distant, rugged lands in South America that now are part of a collective global patrimony.  Foremost among these landscapes are the transnational borderland regions of Amazonia and Patagonia.  These biologically and culturally defined regions traverse national borders and obscure political boundaries with their remote and uncharted mountains, river systems, and forests.   They boast the largest expanses of wild nature in South America and dozens of parks, among the largest in the world, yet historians know little about how policies promoting conservation first enacted in the United States influenced the protection of natural spaces in this region. By examining how different social groups value and conserve non-human nature, especially how they have done so in the past in concrete and measurable ways like declaring parks and protected areas, this paper proposes to study the historical relationships among scientists, policy-makers, and broader society through the lens of protected natural areas and to trace how distinct perceptions about nature developed across nations in tandem with changing modes of inquiry and topics of research by scientists from Europe, North America, and South America.  It will begin in the nineteenth century moving forward in time to examine how scientific research, social institutions, political choices, and philosophies of development contributed to and shaped these transnational natural landscapes.

This conceptual paper takes as its template regions defined by landscapes rather than national borders and in this interrogates the question of whether or not nation states should be the appropriate category for understanding park creation.  This allows a comparison of both temperate and tropical climates and complicates already extant literature on parks worldwide.  Despite the overwhelming general popularity of parks, many scholars of conservation have critiqued the exclusionary role parks have played in societies as diverse as the United States, South Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa (Carruthers 1995; Warren 1997; Neumann 1998; Spence 2000; Jacoby 2001; Rangarajan and Shahabuddin 2006; Kathirithamby-Wells 2005; Dowie 2009).  These authors generally contend that native and local peoples were unjustly pushed out of areas deemed scientifically valuable and that wilderness was thus “created.” Perhaps surprisingly, there is remarkably little social science literature on historical conservation in Latin America and that there is does not reach this same conclusion about exclusion (Simonian 1995; Evans 1999; Drummond 1997; Wakild 2011).  Additionally, a wealth of scientific literature exists, much of which explicitly takes up issues related to the social creation of parks (Kramer, VanSchaik and Johnson 1997; Soule and Terborgh 1999).  The consensus in this scientific literature is increasingly at odds with the newly dominant critique of parks derived elsewhere.  This gap in knowledge is not just a chasm in the literature; the real world risks of this disjuncture are high.  If negative appraisals of parks in other world regions are incorrectly assumed to be applicable to South America and protected areas are voided, we risk compromising conservation successes in areas where humankind cannot redo their relationships with wild nature in the short term.


[1] Their mandate excludes provincial, municipal or private national parks and game reserves which are the purview of different governmental authorities.

[2] Edited by Anthony Hall-Martin and Jane Carruthers (Johannesburg: Horst Klemm, 2003).

[3] H. Magome, “Preface,” in South African National Parks: A Celebration, p. viii.

[4] Project notes for “National parks beyond the nation.”

[5] N. Mandela, “Message from Nelson Mandela,” in South African National Parks: A Celebration, p.vi.

[6] The province of KwaZulu-Natal, for example, while having some of the country’s oldest “game reserves,” still has no “national parks” run by SANParks.

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