This research explores differences in environmental worldviews and connections to the land globally and more specifically in a case study of NGOs working in the Ecuadorian Cloud Forest. The aims of this project are to investigate different environmental worldviews expressed between western NGOs and non western local NGOs and to pose these questions 1) what environmental worldviews and ethics are at play in addressing conservation globally and specifically in the Cloud Forest of Ecuador? 2) How do these worldviews influence models for conservation? 3) How do locally-run projects differ from foreign NGOs in addressing the combined needs of the environment and the people in Ecuador?
I work to establish a framework for comparing the environmental worldviews of foreign environmental NGOs that of local NGOs, by researching environmental worldviews around the world as influenced by culture, society, history and religion. By using research on case studies done by Jim Igoe, Carolyn Merchant, John Schelhas and Max Pfeffer, I explore the dominant Western worldview of conservation and how its introduction of the National Park model has impacted local communities globally. By comparing this Western worldview of conservation via preservation in National Parks to the nonwestern worldview of integrative models for conservation, I hope to establish a framework for how looking at conservation from the perspective of local communities may prove more beneficial to the future of conservation projects globally.
This case study centers around four main community-based conservation projects in the Ecuadorian Cloud Forest and asks how their grassroots operations differ from the Ecuadorian National Park system in their efforts to educate and support local communities. This project proposes to dissect these projects designed by local and foreign NGOs to see how they are shaped by their environmental worldviews and whether that worldview includes just the needs of the environment or takes into account the needs of the people as well. This is done through a combination of participant observation and semi-structured open-ended interviews. All data in this ethnography is qualitative and draws on three bodies of literature that serve as frames or approaches to this topic: environmental worldviews, political ecology, and environmental justice. By using these three approaches I show that the environment and ultimately efforts for conservation do not exist within a vacuum but rather lay within a broader context of beliefs, society, and history.