Marginalised and contested regenerative land practices in Wales, Australia and Bhutan
This project comprises the EU Horizon 2020 Marie Curie Research Fellowship of Dr Isabel Sebastian, studying stories and discourses of marginalised and contested regenerative land practices. The project explores the practices of ‘rewilding’ in Wales (UK), ‘cultural-burning’ in New South Wales (Australia) and ‘closing the mountains [Reedum]’ in Bhutan.
Regenerative land management practices play a crucial role in averting the catastrophic impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss already disrupting the health and wellbeing of global societies and the biosphere we all depend on. Such practices have the potential to provide place-based solutions that foster the resilience and wellbeing of local communities while providing carbon sequestration, habitat for biodiversity, and the continuation of cultural/spiritual practices essential for the survival and regeneration of the land and its people.
While some of these practices are relatively new others represent tried and tested biocultural traditions and Indigenous perspectives of caring for places, which local communities relied upon for centuries and millennia. Yet many such practices have either been lost, marginalised or are contested. This situation reduces the diversity of place-based and bio-culturally appropriate approaches available to local communities and landowners to regenerate land. Understanding the stories of place and the discourse around such practices can help move beyond the marginalisation and contestation towards recognition of their value. Continuing regenerative land practices that are bio-culturally relevant contribute to healthy and sustainable communities and their future generations, while restoring the global biosphere.
There are many different reasons for the loss, marginalisation or contestation of such regenerative land practices which can be found in the stories, narratives and worldviews, or in other words in the discourse, that enables or hinders such practices. This transdisciplinary social science study investigates three different land practices in culturally and geographically distinctive settings, including:
- Rewilding initiatives introduced in Wales (UK) in the last decade have become highly contested
- Cultural burning practiced by Indigenous Australians for millennia has become marginalised since colonisation in 1788
- Closing of mountains [Reedum] a century-old social practice in Bhutan restricting access to forests during certain times of year was replaced by modern forest management approaches in 1969
The aim is to learn about the stories and discourses underpinning these regenerative practices and to understand where, when and how they are practiced at their best within their socio-ecological and biocultural contexts. The study then explores why these practices are marginalised or contested. Based on discourse and comparative analysis we aim to develop pathways from these place-based regenerative practices to national and global institutions and governance systems to move beyond contestation and marginalisation. We will develop sense-making and decision-making tools for stakeholders and policy-makers to foster the recognition of successful place-based regenerative land practices within their biocultural contexts.
Methodology and methods
The research study takes a transdisciplinary approach, meaning stakeholders will be invited to help shape the research objectives and questions. This will require an iterative approach where researchers and stakeholders work together to co-create new knowledge and value for all involved. The interpretive analysis of the findings will be inductive and respect local research contexts and traditions. The research methods will involve land-practice observations, semi-structured interviews and deliberative workshops in the case study sites. This will be followed by a comparative analysis of the case study findings with the potential for unique insights.
Value of the research
The project will have iterative stages but generally will unfold in three phases:
Phase 1: Preparations (2021/22)
- Identifying relevant stakeholders and building relationships in Wales, Bhutan and Australia
- Asking stakeholders and partner organisations what research and knowledge is needed about these practices
- Reviewing relevant literature and documents
- Methodology and methods development
Phase 2: Research (2023)
- Undertaking interviews, conducting workshops, land practice visits and observations
- Iterative process analysing findings and verifying with research participants
Phase 3: Sense-making & sharing (2024)
- Analysis of findings in the three case study sites
- Comparative analysis and overall implications
- Preparation of research reports and publication preparation
- Disseminate findings to share value of the research widely
As a transdisciplinary project involving stakeholders, practitioners and decision-makers in the three case study places, the project aims to create outcomes which may include:
- A change in the situation
- Increased awareness and recognition of the diverse perspectives on the three regenerative land practices and their contribution to restoring land, habitat, biodiversity, cultural and/or spiritual practices in their place-based contexts
- Better sense-making and decision-making tools for stakeholders at various levels when considering implementation of the regenerative practices
- Contribution to knowledge creation and sharing
- Contextualisation of the land practices, their meaning, parameters and narratives
- Exploration of regenerative practices potential to deal with Anthropocentric change
- Investigation of how regenerative practices relate to sustainability and Indigenous knowledge
- Move the state of the art forward on the topic of regenerative land practices
- Offers stakeholders independent scientific research into the topic
- Transdisciplinary methodologies and the comparative analysis will create new knowledge that is greater than the sum of its parts or participants
- New pathways to assist in the reformulation of how knowledge from culturally, geographically, and worldview-diverse regenerative land practices can inform local and global policy, practice and research agendas
- Publication of case study reports, research findings, presentations, events, public engagement, and open access academic publications
- A longer-term impact from this study aims to enable a 'restorative' Anthropocene.
- Mutual transformational learning
Research participants, partner organisations and researchers involved in this study have the opportunity for mutual learning and exchange. These windows of transformation can shape new kinds of conversations to move beyond marginalisation or contestation of regenerative land practices.
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 101025327. Project title: Pathways towards a 'restorative' Anthropocene: a comparative study of three marginalised or contested land practices, their narratives and regenerative potential across local-global dimensions. (REGenPLACE)