Conflict, or the potential for conflict, is inherent in human communities. The impacts of social conflict on conservation efforts are pervasive. Yet, conservation study and practice is still at a relatively early stage of understanding and addressing these impacts. Despite conservation’s several-hundred-year-long history, it is only fairly recently that the field has broadened its disciplinary reach to include elements of psychology, anthropology, neurology, sociology, behavioral economics, systems thinking, and other human-oriented sciences into conservation research and practice. And in many ways we are still early in our journey to fully integrate the wisdom from these fields into what it means to do conservation.
Today many, perhaps even most, conservation researchers and practitioners intuitively understand the importance of conflict to their work, but typical educational and training paths do not develop the suite of skills and capacities needed to constructively transform conflict. In response, my organization—the Human–Wildlife Conflict Collaboration (HWCC)—adapted principles and approaches of conflict transformation developed over decades in the peace-building field, and introduced them to our field in 2008 as conservation conflict transformation. We continue to adapt, evolve, and improve our practice.
Recognition of the need to deepen our field’s understanding of conflict was the inspiration and starting point for this book. This recognition is the first step toward transforming conflict so that it can support, rather than hinder, conservation. It is to the credit of this book’s editors and authors that they took this goal to heart. Their willingness to learn this new approach and integrate conservation conflict transformation with their existing work and expertise demonstrates humility, courage, creativity, and adventurousness.
Our journey began in 2008, after Megan Draheim participated in a capacity-building workshop led by HWCC. A couple of years later, I was delighted when she invited me to co-edit a book that would interweave the conservation conflict transformation approach into a set of cases of marine-based human–wildlife conflict. We were subsequently enriched as an editorial team when Julie-Beth McCarthy and Chris Parsons joined us, bringing both marine conservation expertise and an open-minded willingness to learn about conservation conflict transformation. We sought, and found, chapter authors in both the research and practitioner communities who shared our sense of adventure and willingness to take on a new challenge.
For most of the contributors, this was their first encounter with conservation conflict transformation. A few had worked with me in one of HWCC’s conservation conflict transformation capacity-building workshops in recent years. In every case, the editors and authors were enthusiastic to engage in short, intensive orientation or refresher seminars to build proficiency in one of the key analytical components of conservation conflict transformation—levels of conflict—as well as some of the principles of process design. They were then asked to apply that learning as part of the analysis in their case and chapter.
(p.vi) This was not an insignificant undertaking. Typically, an author in an edited volume is expected to write on a topic over which they have mastery. Rarely are authors (or editors) asked to go a step further, to learn and apply a new and very different approach and discuss their existing work or expertise in that new context. This required courage, patience, flexibility, and intellectual curiosity. It was an adventure in what futurist Alvin Toffler has said is the very definition of literacy in the twenty-first century: the capacity to learn, unlearn, and relearn. In this book, contributors are articulating not only what they know well but also new concepts they have begun to learn and apply within their areas of mastery.
In traveling this path, our team modeled the challenging stance that will be needed for conservation success: being willing to let go of what is known and comfortable and to remain open to and engaged with the paradoxical realities of a changing world. In doing so, our field will more readily embrace and more successfully engage with its increasing complexity to improve conservation outcomes.
Our goal in this book is to instill a sense of intellectual curiosity in you, the reader—the same curiosity that motivated us to embark on this expedition. As an exploration, this book does not offer solutions but rather insights and perspectives. This book is not prescriptive, nor should it be. Conflict and the specific processes needed to transform it are highly context specific. Having said that, we believe that the analysis of conservation conflict transformation across the wide range of marine settings discussed here argues persuasively for the broad applicability of conservation conflict transformation across a variety of cultures, contexts, species, and regions.
I should note that this book is intended to provide a small window into what it means to understand conflict through a conservation conflict transformation lens. By design, this book hones in on a single, important analytical tool—levels of conflict analysis—and demonstrates its replicability across many cases. That said, levels of conflict analysis is just one of several analytical tools in the conservation conflict transformation practitioner’s toolbox. This toolbox also contains a suite of theories, principles, processes, strategies, and skills that are essential for transforming conflict but are largely beyond the scope of this book. While an understanding of levels of conflict analysis may give the reader (and the authors) deeper insights into cases, such insights do not necessarily translate into an immediate capacity to then transform the conflict they present. That capacity requires broader, deeper, and more holistic understanding of, personal engagement with, and years of practice in conservation conflict transformation. It is important to note that a complete engagement with conservation conflict transformation is outside the scope of this, or any, publication.
This book represents a stage in an intellectual expedition, in which a committed group of editors and authors explored the potential for a new perspective and analysis—that of conservation conflict transformation. Adopting a conservation conflict transformation perspective has enabled our authors to gain new and deeper insights into the social conflict and systemic complexity in their case studies in marine conservation. Conservation conflict transformation serves to compliment and augment the author’s existing topical, disciplinary, species, and regional expertise. I admire and wish to thank the contributors for their curiosity, open-mindedness, and willingness to take risks and put in extra effort. I particularly (p.vii) appreciate authors such as Jill Lewandowski, Rachel Sprague, and Catherine Booker, who have been on a longer journey of understanding and integrating conservation conflict transformation within their work. Their efforts to provide leadership in their respective institutions, fields, and areas of expertise give me inspiration and great hope. I am proud of the work that our team has achieved in this book, and I hope that you find the reading of it to be as stimulating, informative, and thought-provoking as we found the writing.
Human–Wildlife Conflict Collaboration