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Abstract

This article intervenes in the persistent hierarchy of epistemological worth that produces scientific knowledge as meaningful, and knowledge from arts or humanities as marginal, or illustrative. The specific trans-disciplinary project we discuss brings together environmental social sciences with performance-based Forum Theatre methods to explore ‘value’ as understood in communities in Tabasco and Chiapas, Mexico in relation to Payment for Ecosystem Services. We argue for engaging, community-based participatory methods that are forged with an understanding of research participants as holistic beings whose lifeworlds are embodied, experiential as well as culturally informed. Trans-disciplinary collaborations that seek to incorporate ‘novel’ methods to engage participants differently might better reflect the dynamic, emergent, and often shifting nature of beliefs, attitudes and values.

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This paper reviews the historic development of the conceptualization of ecosystem services and examines critical landmarks in economic theory and practice with regard to the incorporation of ecosystem services into markets and payment schemes. The review presented here suggests that the trend towards monetization and commodification of ecosystem services is partly the result of a slow move from the original economic conception of nature's benefits as use values in Classical economics to their conceptualization in terms of exchange values in Neoclassical economics. The theory and practice of current ecosystem services science are examined in the light of this historical development. From this review, we conclude that the focus on monetary valuation and payment schemes has contributed to attract political support for conservation, but also to commodify a growing number of ecosystem services and to reproduce the Neoclassical economics paradigm and the market logic to tackle environmental problems.
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Would enhancing women's presence in community institutions of forest governance improve resource conservation and regeneration? This paper focuses on this little addressed question. Based on the author's primary data on communities managing their local forests in parts of India and Nepal, it statistically assesses whether the gender composition of a local forest management group affects forest conservation outcomes, after controlling for other characteristics of the management group, aspects of institutional functioning, forest and population characteristics, and related factors. It is found that groups with a high proportion of women in their executive committee (EC)--the principal decision-making body--show significantly greater improvements in forest condition in both regions. Moreover, groups with all-women ECs in the Nepal sample have better forest regeneration and canopy growth than other groups, despite receiving much smaller and more degraded forests. Older EC members, especially older women, also make a particular difference, as does employing a guard. The beneficial impact of women's presence on conservation outcomes is attributable especially to women's contributions to improved forest protection and rule compliance. More opportunity for women to use their knowledge of plant species and methods of product extraction, as well as greater cooperation among women, are also likely contributory factors.