Katrina Z.S. Schwartz

Woodrow Wilson Center

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I am writing a book on the politics of implementing large-scale ecosystem restoration in the Florida Everglades.

“Panther Politics: neoliberalizing nature in southwest Florida.” Environment and Planning A 45, 10 (2013): 2323-2343.
Abstract: The past quarter-century has witnessed a “quieter revolution” in land-use management in the United States, from top-down regulation and adversarial environmentalism to multistakeholder collaboration and voluntary market-based mechanisms designed to forge a compromise between nature protection, property rights, and local livelihoods. The latter approach has become hegemonic, and yet this dramatic shift has received little attention from political ecologists. In this paper, I argue that two contradictory lessons on the topic can be drawn from political ecology. On the one hand, proponents of the “quieter revolution” invoke themes and normative stances shared by political ecologists, celebrating self-management by place-based communities drawing on local knowledge, in opposition to control by central governments and powerful environmental groups wielding “big science.” On the other hand, the “quieter revolution” exemplifies the neoliberalization of nature, which political ecologists have critiqued as providing a “stamp of environmental approval” for capitalist expansion, often at the expense of the nature values it claims to defend. Thus, the “quieter revolution” exposes tensions in the application of the Third World-based political ecology orientation to a First World setting. I explore these tensions through a case study of voluntary and collaborative approaches (specifically, transfer of development rights and habitat conservation planning) in exurban Collier County in southwest Florida. I argue that in this context, it is more useful to focus on the neoliberalization of nature than on the valorization of local knowledge and control, because the discourse of local knowledge and livelihoods aligns with the (anti-environmental) interests of locally powerful actors. These power relations – and the limits of deeply embedded assumptions that undergird the political ecology literature – are revealed most effectively through ethnographic examination of the micropolitics of particular cases.
Schwartz, Katrina. 2010. "In Defense of 'Conventional Politics': Resisting Large-Scale Ecosystem Restoration in the Everglades." Western Political Science Association Conference, April 1, 2010.
Schwartz, Katrina. 2010. "Resisting Everglades Restoration: The Politics of Property Rights in Southwest Florida." American Political Science Association Conference, September 3, 2010.

Substantive Focus:
Environmental Policy PRIMARY

Theoretical Focus: