A trans-disciplinary analysis of international environmental policy: The coral reef crisis
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
Focusing on coral reef policy, this thesis challenges orthodox understanding of international environmental policy, studying environmental crises as political assemblies, and policy endeavours as power-filled networks. This requires first rendering the subject accessible for critical research by constructing a 'multiperspectival' base from which to view it, thus elucidating how a Foucauldian discourse of modernisation hides the politics of orthodox understandings of international environmental policy. The thesis then investigates the efforts of a suite of science/policy/conservation agencies to save coral reefs from a perceived global crisis. It analyses how coral reef policy arises as an instrument of international governance, articulating with the Fiji Islands, a South Pacific archipelago. This reveals how global truths are created and translated into policies and action plans, enrolling places and people into a global network largely outside the formal interstate treaty system. Understanding these networks and the various modes of power operating within them-from seduction to coercion and hegemony-necessitates understanding how actors in both developed and developing counties exhibit similar agency, co-opting discourses to suit their interests. The final section argues that this political assembly around ecological crisis represents a deepening integration of humankind in which ecology has become a model for the practice of development under the control of ecological technocrats. The West continues to dominate the Third World, however. Both environmental policy discourse and the universals through which policy travels the globe-the moral imperative to look after the planet plus science-based universals positioning coral reefs as a problem of common concern to humanity-contribute to this relationship of domination. Indeed, hegemony is predicated upon the universal of international cooperation as much as those of science and neoliberalism. Technical practices and expert technologies accepted as commonsense help sustain an asymmetrical relationship; practices used in creating global reports of coral health, capacity-building projects, ecoregion planning technologies and the rhetorical style used in scientific papers all contribute.