Future Opportunities to Integrate FEP and Earth Stewardship

For 20 years, philosophers working in a remote area of South America have succeeded in working on a transdisciplinary biocultural initiative to establish continuous long-term programs linking academic research with local cultures, social processes, and decision-making. Through collaboration with the Chilean Government and local, national, and international communities, researchers, artists, writers, students, volunteers, and friends experience dynamic and innovative ways to better integrate academia and society. To consolidate this initiative, the Omora Park research team was awarded 20 million dollars by the Chilean Government in 2017 to build an iconic center in Puerto Williams: the Sub-Antarctic Biocultural Center. This facility will allow us to conduct transdisciplinary research and education linked to sustainable development and longterm socio-ecological research at a critical geographical location in the context of global change. It will be inaugurated in 2020, as the first international subantarctic conservation and research platform to monitor climate change and its impact on biodiversity, as well as to mitigate and adapt to global change.

In 2015, philosophers working with the Omora Park research team also undertook a complex policy process as well as multiple-stakeholder negotiations for the preparation of the scientific-technical proposal to create a 15 million hectare marine park to conserve one of the few (and the largest) terrestrial and marine wilderness areas remaining on the planet in the twenty-first century. In 2017, we succeeded in negotiating with both artisanal and industrial fisheries, the Ministry of Economy and the Ministry' of Environment, and the regional government. In 2018, the Chilean President signed a decree creating the Diego Ramirez—Drake Passage Marine Park, and the official document was published in 2019. This marine park will protect critical nesting sites for endangered albatrosses, penguins, and other marine species, conserve ecosystems with abundant seaweeds and phytoplankton that represent a critical ‘blue lung’ for the planet, and conserve a unique range of biodiversity hosted by major seamounts in the Drake Passage between South America and Antarctica.

During these 20 years, in light of the rapid cultural, socioeconomic, and ecological transformations taking place both in the remote austral region of South America and around the globe, philosophers and other researchers have hosted a series of interdisciplinary workshops at Omora Park. Leading international scholars (importantly, environmental philosophers and ecologists) have worked together with government authorities and concluded that there is an urgent need to develop Long-Term Socio-Ecological Research (LTSER) rather than merely Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) networks. LTSER network sites go beyond LTER sites in their capacity to link biophysical processes to governance and science communication. In answer to this need, we co-founded the Chilean LTSER network at Omora Park in 2008 (Rozzi et al., 2010). LTSER networks provide an institutional platform to explore decision-making processes at multiple scales and to understand conflict as a basis for reconciling divergent goals among stakeholders, thus enhancing the resilience of local communities, places, and ecosystems (Haberl et al., 2006). As a significant contribution toward this mission, Omora Park has introduced FEP’s methodological approach at multiple LTSER sites by closely collaborating with the International LTER (ILTER) network and the Earth Stewardship Initiative launched by the Ecological Society of America (ESA) in 2009 (see Rozzi et al., 2015).

Earth Stewardship implies a paradigm shift that links facts and values with multiple forms of ecological knowledge and practice. Thus, it broadens the mission of the ecological sciences. To confront global environmental change it is necessary, but not sufficient, to conduct long-term socio-ecological research. It is also necessary to act. As a means of engaging science and society in rapidly reducing the rates of anthropogenic damage to the biosphere, the Earth Stewardship Initiative launched a call for action that appeals not only to ecologists, but also to anthropologists, sociologists, engineers, economists, religion scholars, and conservation biologists, as well as to other professionals, decision-makers, and citizens.

At Omora Park we proposed to the ESA that, for an Earth Stewardship that values biocultural diversity, it is indispensable that ecologists also collaborate with philosophers, policymakers, and artists. Scientists need to engage not only in the production of knowledge, but also in public discourse and understanding, as well as in decision-making, education, and governance. Philosophical inquiry—by professionals as well as laypersons—adds to the aim of advancing the FEP’s methodological approach and the Earth Stewardship Initiative at a planetary scale. Inter-hemispheric, intercultural, and transdisciplinary collaborations have helped us to address (a) biophysical-geographical gaps and (b) conceptual-philosophical gaps in the coverage of ILTER at Omora Park.

With regard to (a) biophysical-geographical gaps, more than 90 percent of ILTER sites are located in the Northern Hemisphere (Rozzi et al., 2012). Furthermore, within the Northern Hemisphere 89 percent of ILTER publications are generated in temperate regions, and only 1 percent in equatorial regions (Li et al., 2015). Consequently, the distribution of ILTER sites and ILTER research efforts are more associated with political and economic resources than with the geographic distribution of biodiversity.

With regard to (b) conceptual-philosophical gaps, until now the social component considered in socio-ecological studies worldwide has been primarily economic (Rozzi et al., 2012). ESA’s Earth Stewardship call gives special consideration to both ecological and socioeconomic facts (Chapin et al., 2011). Similarly, the European LTSER platform was designed as a research infrastructure to support integrated socioeconomic and ecological research (Haberl et al., 2006). Socio-ecological studies are subsumed by ‘socioeconomic’ ones, and it is striking how the fields of philosophy, including ethics, have been ignored. For example, Singh et al. (2013) prepared a comprehensive review of long-term socio-ecological research in the USA and Europe, but in the whole review the words ‘philosophy’ and ‘ethics’ are not included at all. The Omora Park research team has criticized this omission. We are contributing to solve it by incorporating philosophy and ethics into the theory and practice of long-term socio-ecological research. Interestingly, as documented by Li et al. (2015), over 99 percent of all ILTER publications in the arts and humanities are generated by researchers working in the Southern Hemisphere, and most of these publications have been generated by researchers at Omora Park.

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