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Accueil du site → Doctorat → Australie → 2006 → Valuing water : variability and the Lake Eyre Basin, Central Australia

Australian National University (2006)

Valuing water : variability and the Lake Eyre Basin, Central Australia

Gibbs, Leah M. 

Titre : Valuing water : variability and the Lake Eyre Basin, Central Australia

Auteur : Gibbs, Leah M. 

Université de soutenance : Australian National University

Grade : Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) 2006

Résumé partiel
Water has multiple forms and functions, meanings and values. In the context of growing awareness of environmental sustainability and social justice, natural resource management attempts to incorporate this multiplicity. This thesis is concerned with the ways value is attributed to water within natural resource management discourse and practice, and the extent to which such efforts capture the range of values associated with water. The research uses a case study of the arid and semi-arid Lake Eyre Basin in central Australia, a region whose waters are characterised by variability. A place-based study emphasises the significance of the specific place, and highlights the need to ensure that local, place-based values are not marginalised by the dominant universalising discourse and practice. Colonial relationships with place and recent social change provide an historical context for the ways people live with Lake Eyre Basin water, and demonstrate changing meanings and values. Since the 1990s, there have been two major conflicts over water in the Basin : a campaign for World Heritage listing of parts of the Basin, and a proposal for a major cotton irrigation scheme on Cooper Creek. These two conflicts illuminate multiple and changing values, and reveal a multiplicity of constructions of nature. These events led directly to the region’s first locally-driven catchment management process. Within and beyond the Lake Eyre Basin, current approaches to valuing water within natural resource management rest heavily on the triple-bottom-line framework of economic, ecological and social sustainability, which separates values into discrete categories. Yet this research has found that values associated with water are not separable ; rather, these established categories of value are interconnected. Current approaches to valuing water are limited by reductionism, anthropocentrism, and cultural specificity. I propose a new framework for valuing water that emerges from place, overcomes these limitations, and captures the range of values associated with water. Valuing variability reflects two ways that value and variability are connected : water’s variability is valued, and water’s values are characterised by variability. This framework moves towards an understanding of water based on its interconnected, living and lifegtVIDg character. It recognises the interconnection of· categories of value, and interconnections between water and the rest of the world. The framework draws on the discourse of social nature, the Australian Aboriginal concept of ’Country’, and an ecosystem approach, to explore these qualities. Valuing variability has implications for multiple scales of a nested hierarchy of discourse and practice. First, in the Lake Eyre Basin, it enables incorporation of diverse, changing and complex values, including those currently marginalised. Second, it presents possibilities for rethinking natural resource management elsewhere ; by challenging universalisms, it offers hope for other places. Third, the framework builds on the discourse of social nature by critiquing connections between ’society’ and ’nature’ in the context of natural resource management in a specific place. Finally, valuing variability engages with ethics beyond the human world by prioritising place, and drawing on the interconnected, living and life-giving qualities of water.


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