Letting Nature Take Its Course? An Analysis of Global Institutional Conflict around the Proliferation of National Parks
This research examines how apparent conflicts at the global level of civil society affect a unique environmental outcome, the establishment of national parks and protected areas. National parks are seen as a solution for a variety of environmental problems including limited biodiversity and climate change and have spread throughout Western and non-Western countries. International environmental organizations set the standards for national park establishment and management, but these standards may often impinge on a country’s development goals, as setting aside land for protection makes some natural resources unavailable in the use of industry. This can potentially be detrimental to impoverished nation states that tend to rely on natural resources for a greater share of their economic activity. International development institutions, such as the World Bank, also support and legitimize development efforts that may be at odds with environmental protection. In three empirical chapters, I test which cultural and economic forces enable and constrain national park expansion and how these forces work in combination to promote expansion in non-Western countries.
In my dissertation I examine (1) the expansion of national parks and protected areas from 1970 to 2008, (2) the expansion of different park categories from 1970 to 2008, and (3) the combination of economic and cultural conditions that lead to park establishment in non-Western countries. I employ cross-national time series regression analyses as well as qualitative comparative analysis. Overall, I find strong evidence that embeddedness in both global culture and the world economic system promotes state environmental activities.