Regional Universals: The Ecologies of the International Union for the Protection of Nature, 1950-1960

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Abstract Summary
After World War II, the global conservation community went through a period of institutional restructuring – which culminated in the foundation of the International Union for the Protection of Nature (IUPN, later IUCN) in 1948. From the start, ecology served as the lead science of the new organization. Several prominent voices within IUPN believed that ecology’s universal laws would give coherence to the Union’s program. Yet, when in the 1950s IUPN members finally got new conservation projects off the ground, it quickly turned out that ecology could inspire very different approaches. In the Middle East, the Union’s ecologists became involved in highly interventionist and utilitarian programs that ultimately aimed to ‘make the desert bloom’. In Western Europe, then, IUPN members focused on the protection of historical landscapes such as heath and moorland – which they conceptualized as a valuable form of ‘half-nature’. And in sub-Saharan Africa, finally, ecology-led conservation aspired to maintain a ‘pristine’ wilderness that was seemingly devoid of human influence. In this paper, I will explore the ambiguities of IUPN’s ‘global mission’ of the 1950s, and explain why – despite a universalizing rhetoric – its ecological program would give rise to such divergent regional approaches.
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Submission Type
Chronological Classification :
20th century, late
Self-Designated Keywords :
Conservation, environmental science, transnationalism, localism
Maastricht University

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