Environmentalisms in Practice: From National Policy to Grassroots Activism in Cost Rica’s Osa Peninsula

Korsant, Clate. 2018. Environmentalisms in Practice: From National Policy to Grassroots Activism in Cost Rica’s Osa Peninsula. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis examines the characteristics of Costa Rican environmentalism, focusing on biodiversity conservation in the Osa Peninsula. Relatively remote and long inaccessible, the Osa Peninsula is seen as a frontier region and the most renowned biodiversity hotspot of one of the world’s most relatively biodiverse nations. Given the shift towards community-based initiatives, I explain how individuals have come to care for and interact with their surroundings, the interrelations of differing regimes of value, and tensions inherent to the politics of land use. Conservationist practice in the Osa Peninsula represents a messy, conflict-ridden, contentious, and ambiguous phenomenon, entangled with Costa Rica’s history of elite domination over the extraction and use of resources, indoctrination and the influence of external interests, and global agendas. This in-depth ethnographic study of the different manifestations of environmentalism in the Osa Peninsula, including government policies, environmental education, grass roots activism, volunteering, and ecotourism, reveal environmentalism to be more complex than the static monolithic entity previously depicted. This ethnography illuminates the relationship between power and place, and the importance of global and historic processes that inform the politics of conservationism.

Altogether I identify five factors shaping these various forms of environmentalism: conservation as sincere efforts and good intentions to sustain ecosystems and non-human life, socio-economic concerns for making a living, the adoption of environmental movements as tools of capitalist expansion, imperialism, and reference to Costa Rican nationalism and senses of place. In identifying these five factors and exploring them ethnographically in one regional context, this study thus makes an important contribution to the understanding of environmentalism as inherently multi-faceted.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

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Environmentalism, Conservation, Costa Rica, Cultural Anthropology, Power, Politics, Land, Political Ecology, Knowledge, Environmental Education, Voluntourism, Tourism, Ecotourism, Grassroots Activism, Sustainability, Biodiversity, Rural Livelihoods

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31 January 2018

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

21 Feb 2018 14:41

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 15:33



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