Monday, October 27, 2014 - 12:15pm to 2:00pm
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Room 100F, Pierce Hall, 29 Oxford Street, Cambridge

STS Circle at Harvard

Zoe Nyssa (Harvard, HUCE/STS Fellow) on "Ecologies of Paradox: A Typology of Scientific Surprise in the Anthropocene"

Sandwich lunches are provided. Please RSVP to by Wednesday at 5PM the week before.

Abstract: With species going extinct one thousand times the natural rate, the study of global biodiversity for conservation scientists has become a professional, moral, and practical imperative. Yet as a new biological and political category of risky existence, species endangerment has material consequences that often oppose scientists’ aims. Insiders call these the “unintended consequences” of their work: preserving habitat incentivizes development; calling species endangered fuels their consumption, moving species to captivity threatens their long term survival.

I argue that the failures of science-based conservation are not only due to well-documented discordances between the commitments and practices of academic scientists and other conservation partners and communities. Rather, these paradoxical effects exhibit a consistent pattern related to how the science of conservation parses up and engages with the world. This paper provides a typology of the unintended consequences of conservation, the ways that scientists, their allies, and other stakeholders are surprised by the effects of biodiversity science. I argue that this element of surprise is an epistemic artifact of the limits of our ecological thinking. Further, conservation as a case study affords insight into wider processes of scientific serendipity and rupture in the Anthropocene.

Research Areas: 

Harvard University
Center for the Environment

Address: 26 Oxford Street, 4th Floor, Cambridge
Phone: (617) 495-0368

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