Transformative Politics of Nature: Overcoming Barriers to Conservation in Canada highlights the most significant barriers to conservation in Canada and discusses strategies to confront and overcome them. Read the full Q&A interview with the co-authors Andrea Olive, Karen F. Beazley, and Chance Finegan below:
Tell us about how you got the idea to write Transformative Politics of Nature. Was there a specific event, story, or motivation that acted as a catalyst behind this book’s creation?
The catalyst for the book was a simple DM on Twitter from Andrea Olive to Karen F. Beazley in 2018. Andrea was on research sabbatical and looking for a new, exciting project to focus on post-tenure. She reached out to Karen – whom she did not know at the time – to gauge interest in pulling together a collection on the politics of wildlife and species and risk in Canada. Karen had co-edited a collection back in 2001 that needed an update, and she had been considering such a project herself. Almost immediately, Karen and Andrea were exchanging messages and then emails about triathlon, a shared hobby, and wildlife politics, a shared passion.
The contents of the edited collection were inspired by two workshops supported by SSHRC and hosted by the University of Toronto and Dalhousie University in 2019/2020. At the time, Chance Finegan was a post-doctoral fellow working with Andrea on reconciliation and parks in Canada and the United States. Together, Karen, Andrea, and Chance pulled together workshops that included a breadth of voices from eNGO practitioners and scholars, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, across Canada.
From there, the book started to take shape. Karen’s expertise in biodiversity conservation and co-production of knowledge paired easily with Andrea’s expertise in conservation policy and Chance’s expertise in reconciliation and Indigenous protected and conserved areas. All three co-authors knew that transformational approaches that bring together these interrelated realms are crucial.
How does your book approach the issue of “conservation,” and how does it differ from other books that have been written on this subject?
Transformative Politics of Nature contains a multitude of perspectives. All authors were invited to problematize concepts like “wildlife” and “conservation” in Canada. Reconciliation and conservation go hand-in-hand; we cannot achieve one without the other. Thus, authors encourage a practice of conservation that respects Indigenous rights and includes Indigenous knowledge systems. To move forward effectively in these ways requires and represents a transformative approach to conservation, which at base is both personal and political.
What was the most challenging aspect of working on this project?
The workshops occurred in December 2019 and February 2020. These were high-energy roundtables, with enthusiastic commitments to pull together research and knowledge on wildlife, conservation, and sustainability. However, soon authors found themselves working in isolation in varying degrees of lockdown.
Tell us about the research process for this book. Was there anything in your research that surprised you?
As editors, we asked the chapter authors to express challenges to conservation in Canada and present possible avenues to overcoming and transforming barriers. We anticipated bleak assessments of our current system, and each chapter bears that out. There is no hiding from the grim realities of significant biodiversity loss and climate change from coast to coast to coast in Canada. There is also no hiding from the colonial legacy of conservation in Canada that continues in the present.
However, we were surprised by how hopeful each chapter is and how authors were able to present practical solutions and next steps for transformative change.
What do you hope readers will take away from reading Transformative Politics of Nature?
That it is not too late. Important and lasting change can be achieved. Indeed, we can transform our politics and work toward a more sustainable and just society in Canada. Like a monarch butterfly emerging from its chrysalis, transformation is possible.