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Marie-Lou Lecuyer seminar

Why might jaguar management be seen as unfair? Construction of the feeling of justice in biodiversity conflicts

Wednesday 18th January | 3.30-5pm | Arts 0.31

Biodiversity conflicts can be viewed as a failure to achieve sustainable development. Many efforts to address or research biodiversity conflicts focus on  environmental integrity, neglecting social justice and potentially precipitating feelings of injustice. We use a framework that distinguishes justice as procedural environmental justice (i.e. fairness in the process of decision-making), distributive environmental justice (i.e. fairness in the actual distribution of environmental burden) and ecological justice, which represents a concern for the intrinsic value of the environment and the ‘right to live’ of organisms. During 5 focus groups with a total of 40 participants exploring different scenarios of natural resource management in relation to water, forest and jaguars with livestock breeders and crop producers and with one multi-actor group, we investigated how people assess justice and the criteria they use in the region of Calakmul, Mexico. Our results show that people construct their feeling of justice around the three types of justice proposed, but the criteria they use in their appraisal of justice vary according to their role or the resource in question. Some specific aspects of (in)justice appraisal arose from the context of environmental management in Calakmul, such as land-use rights and corruption. This led us to revise our initial framework to include recognition justice (i.e. acknowledging individual rights and values as well as culture and knowledge systems) and ecological justice as ‘conditional justices’ that have to be achieved to address ‘practical’ distributive and procedural justices. Our framework was then applied to the case of jaguar management through analysis of 230 interview surveys conducted with crop-producers and livestock owners in 40 communities of the Calakmul region. I will present preliminary results on how we weighed the criteria against each other and assessed further external factors (e.g. socio-economic status, environmental identity, group affiliation) that might influence justice appraisal. We propose that perceived justice is an understudied and important social factor for environmental management and should be included in more integrative approaches to managing biodiversity conflict. Addressing justice demands appears to transcend the desire to balance benefits and costs among actors. To do so requires appreciation of the plurality of perspectives and identities existing, the need to treat all actors with respect and acknowledgement of the intrinsic value of the environment.


I am a PhD candidate in an interdisciplinary program at Sherbrooke University in Quebec. My work aim to improve relationships between groups of actors concerned by jaguar management in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. As well as being fascinated by wildlife, I am also interested in learning about other people. During my first research project, which was focused on how farmers and shepherds perceived actions for wolves management from the Vercors Nature Reserve, I was struck by one shepherd’s remark that “today, everybody points the finger saying that I’m someone who doesn’t like nature because I don’t want to work in an area where wolves live, but why do you think that I do this job?” The words of this shepherd — who spent four months each year alone in mountain pastures, surrounded by nature — reinforced my desire to fight against the stereotypes generated in debates concerning the protection of the environment. After further experience including working for the protection of amphibians in the Alps and elephants in Indonesia, and my involvement in the steering committee of Awely, I am convinced that the long-term protection of the environment depends on gaining a better understanding of the points of view and needs of all the actors involved, and improving dialogue and empathy between individuals.