Philip A. Loring


DOI bib
Science, Data, and the Struggle for Standing in Environmental Governance
Philip A. Loring, Hannah L. Harrison, Valencia Gaspard, Sarah Minnes, Helen M. Baulch
Society & Natural Resources, Volume 34, Issue 12

Here, we explore how people entangled in natural resource conflicts employ and discuss data. We draw on ethnographic research with two cases of conflict: salmon fisheries in Alaska, USA, and agricultural water management in Saskatchewan, Canada. Both cases illustrate how data, through the scientization of environmental governance, can become a means of empowerment and disempowerment: empowering those with access and influence over data and disempowering those without such access. In both locales, people find it necessary to perform their expertise, justify the veracity of their data, and discount the data held by others if they wish to achieve or maintain standing. We call this “datamentality” and draw lessons from these cases for how we can structure environmental governance such that it benefits from robust data and science while meeting the needs of individuals, avoiding or managing power struggles, and protecting the rights of all involved.


DOI bib
Transforming conflict over natural resources: a socio-ecological systems analysis of agricultural drainage
Sarah Minnes, Valencia Gaspard, Philip A. Loring, Helen M. Baulch, Sarah-Patricia Breen
FACETS, Volume 5, Issue 1

Agricultural drainage is a complicated and often conflict-ridden natural resource management issue, impacting contested ecosystem services related to the retention of wetlands as well as the productivity of farmland. This research identifies opportunities to transform the conflict over agricultural drainage in Saskatchewan, Canada, towards collaboration. We report on ethnographic research informed by a conservation conflict-transformation framework to evaluate the nature of the conflict and whether drivers of the conflict operate principally at the level of disputes over discrete ecosystem services or if they reach deeper into local social circumstances and build on larger unresolved conflict(s) among groups in the region. In addition to the conflict-transformation framework, we apply the Social–Ecological Systems Framework to elicit details regarding the substantive, relational, and material dimensions of this conflict. Our research suggests that processes for governing natural resources, such as those in place for governing drainage in Saskatchewan, need to have mechanisms to facilitate relationship building and shared understandings, need to be adaptable to people’s changing needs and concerns, and should focus on inclusivity and empowerment of actors to address conflict.

DOI bib
Seeing beneath disputes: A transdisciplinary framework for diagnosing complex conservation conflicts
Hannah L. Harrison, Philip A. Loring
Biological Conservation, Volume 248

Abstract Conservation conflicts are pressing social and environmental sustainability issues, and the complex underlying causes and escalating factors of such conflicts can often be difficult to understand. Appropriate tools are needed for breaking down complex conservation conflicts into their varied, heterogenous parts so their nature and the complex relationships between them may be better understood and addressed using appropriate interventions. Importantly, these tools must transcend disciplinary silos so as to be applicable across social science disciplines as well as within and outside of the academic context. This article synthesizes a breadth of conservation conflict literature to lay out a transdisciplinary framework for diagnosing complex conservation conflicts composed of six key aspects: complexity, emergence, and stages; conflict status; basis of contention and cognitive framing; state of knowledge; state of values; and interventions. This framework is based in systems thinking and differs from other key conservation conflict frameworks by using conflict emergence as a starting point. To complement this approach, our diagnostic tool encourages users to harness thinking based in storytelling and consider how a conservation conflict represents a larger ongoing narrative with depth, meaning, and containing complex, interrelated storylines. As poorly understood stakeholder disputes can seriously undermine conservation efforts, this framework pushes forward practical understandings of conservation conflict interventions by offering a novel, transdisciplinary diagnostic tool for better understanding their complex, multifaceted variables.


DOI bib
When a Water Problem Is More Than a Water Problem: Fragmentation, Framing, and the Case of Agricultural Wetland Drainage
Sarah-Patricia Breen, Philip A. Loring, Helen M. Baulch
Frontiers in Environmental Science, Volume 6

Complex interactions between water, society, the economy, and the environment necessitate attention to how water issues are framed, and the limitations of a water-centric framework for analyzing or solving problems. We explore this complexity through an example of an existing complex, or wicked, policy problem - the case of agricultural wetland drainage in the Canadian Prairies. Agricultural wetland drainage expands the amount of productive agricultural land, increasing agricultural efficiency and productivity. Drainage is also one of the primary drivers of the loss of Canada’s wetlands and is a hotly contentious issue between actors with divergent views and values in the Canadian Prairies. Using the nuances of drainage as an exemplar, we discuss how fragmented framings of water foster perspectives and solutions that fail to consider the full range of aspects and interactions, and contribute to the enduring conflicts that accompany drainage debates in many regions. First, we discuss agricultural wetland drainage as practiced in the province of Saskatchewan, where significant regulatory and governance changes are in progress. Next, we discuss the challenges of policy and governance fragmentation, both specific to water and to the surrounding system. Finally, we note potential alternative framings that, while specific to prairie water governance, provide guidance for how other complex social-ecological challenges might be approached.