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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The birth of the Great Bear Rainforest : conservation science and environmental politics on British Columbia’s central and north coast Dempsey, Jessica Anne


This thesis examines the birth of the Great Bear Rainforest, a large tract of temperate rainforest located on British Columbia’s central and north coasts. While the Great Bear Rainforest emerges through many intersecting forces, in this study I focus on the contributions of conservation science asking: how did conservation biology and related sciences help constitute a particular of place, a particular kind of forest, and a particular approach to biodiversity politics? In pursuit of these questions, I analyzed several scientific studies of this place completed in the 1990s and conducted interviews with people involved in the environmental politics of the Great Bear Rainforest. My research conclusions show that conservation science played an influential role in shaping the Great Bear Rainforest as a rare, endangered temperate rainforest in desperate need of protection, an identity that counters the entrenched industrial-state geographies found in British Columbia’s forests. With the help of science studies theorists like Bruno Latour and Donna Haraway, I argue that these conservation studies are based upon purification epistemologies, where nature - in this case, the temperate rainforest - is separated out as an entity to be explained on its own and ultimately ’saved’ through science. Further, I posit that the scientific practices surrounding the Great Bear Rainforest are steeped in what I call protected area fetishism, in that they tend to mistake protected areas as a fixed, objective ’thing-in-itself’ necessary for biodiversity conservation. The overemphasis on protected areas enacted by conservation science obfuscates past and present relations contributing to the on-going reduction of biodiversity loss on the coast of British Columbia and elsewhere.

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