Chapter 38: Integrating politics and ecology through mixed methods
Political ecology is ideally suited to explore the interface between ecology and politics. There is a politics in ecology, namely the politics surrounding the knowledge claims made about the biophysical world, as well as an ecology in politics, namely the role of the materiality of the biophysical world in the unfolding of environmental politics. This chapter looks at the promise and pitfalls of incorporating biophysical measurements (from the geospatial and environmental sciences) into the standard packages of methods used in political ecology to shed light on these two nodes linking ecology and politics. The promise that such integrative work holds is that, through active engagement with measuring the biophysical world, political ecologists are more likely to illuminate the politics embedded in the methodological choices made in environmental management and science (politics in ecology). Moreover, they are more likely to discover how the materiality of biophysical processes shapes and constrains social institutions and the politics that surrounds them (ecology in politics). The incorporation of these techniques is not seamless and without problems. GIS and remote sensing can place constraints on the temporal and spatial framing of a study. Environmental scientific measurements are diverse but all will create information and data that cannot necessarily be tied causally to social processes. Moreover, they have similar effects to GIS and remote sensing analysis on the temporal and spatial framing possible in a political ecological study. Therefore, this chapter does not promote the integration of politics and ecology in an uncritical fashion––simply seeking some unachievable holism for its own sake. Instead, it concludes by more deliberate, targeted, and piecemeal incorporations when these techniques answer key questions but do not reshape the overall study design. Such targeted forms of integration hold much promise.
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