View Full Version : Relation to Nature among the Danish Wadden Sea Population

Tuesday, September 20th, 2005, 12:08 PM
Man and Nature of the Wadden Sea

By Christina Anderskov

Imagine yourself set down on a foreign beach, with the dim sun in your eyes and the chilling wind in your face, you look at the greyish sea and wonder where the beach stops and the sea starts. While the bus, which brought you there slowly drives out of sight. You look around and realize that you are not alone:

"A group of ten Germans with children were also pottering about in the sand like us looking for amber. An old man drove slowly along the beach watching the sand carefully from his moped, which had a small box attached on the carrier. Some had put up smart, colourful kites, which were very discomforting as the kites dug towards the beach with a dangerous speed. Others drove their cars on the beach and even the bus and the mail van took this road." (Field note 29.10.00)

Then imagine yourself discovering that these people may all have conflicting interests about the utility of just this stretch of beach. Then you are no longer standing on a beach in the Danish Wadden Sea area[1], you are now standing in a highly explosive minefield!

I have been assigned by the WWF (World Wide Fund For Nature) to conduct 150 interviews within three months in the Danish Wadden Sea area, as WWF wishes to include the counties of Ribe and Sønderjylland into their new nature conservation strategy ERBC[2] (Ecoregion Based Conservation). Part of the collected interviews[3] along with other kinds of data samples will be used to answer the objectives of this paper[4]:

What is the perception of nature and the relation to nature among the Danish Wadden Sea population?

The purpose is explanatory and aims at securing that the people of the Wadden Sea are heard loud and clear in the process of forming the expected, future conservation project.

Since 1996 I have worked theoretically, empirically and personally with issues concerning people and their environment. I am aware that this small project is tied up in a worldwide context, which can be best understood as field of force and never-ending struggle produced by practitioners of rivalling ideologies of access to and utility of natural resources. Still it has come as a surprise to me that conflicts, which I naively believed only to exist in less developed countries, are alive and well here in our own little and otherwise so peaceful Denmark.

In the following the reader will be taken on a small excursion into the Danish Wadden Sea area and into the beauty and hardship of doing fieldwork We will meet the ethnographer, get a glimpse of her mind and be told how she conducts her work - when it works and when it does not work. We will meet a few selected people of the Wadden Sea, whom to the large extend represent the general attitudes of different categories of nature users. These categories of nature users with different relations to nature and different perceptions of nature will be made explicit in the subsequent analysis.
Where is the field?

While conducting, discussing or writing about fieldwork we constantly, as the word implies, talk about a certain field. My field was the entire Danish Wadden Sea area. It was divided into ten sites, selected to ensure that both urban and rural populations would be represented in the study: Fanø, Mandø, Rømø, Skærbæk, Højer, Ribe, Esbjerg, Tjæreborg, Vr. Vedsted and Koldby. I conducted interviews on ferries, in private homes, burger bars, cafes, riding schools, fishing boats, farms and libraries. In some places I stayed for only a day and in others I used prolonged engagement between two and four days[5]. There are at least two problems with using the word field in relation to the objects ethnographers study. First of all, a field is associated with a neatly fenced-in area, which can be overlooked, mapped, accessed and left whenever it pleases you. But my field was nothing like that. My informants had relationships, which exceeded the field that I had cut out for them[6]. The so-called field is not bound in any way - the field is a global and complex village. Secondly, one cannot just leave the field, because the field is not a physical place or a dot on a map. The field consists of: People, sensations, moods, smells, tastes and non-erasable pictures. I have spent 27 days in the selected field sites but I have not been able to leave the field for three months.
Fragments of life with the Wadden Sea
The Wadden Sea Area

According to data samples containing: Tourist brochures, juridical information, internet-sites, poetry, news paper clippings, films and history books collected in the field or borrowed from my informants; The area has a very rare and fragile biodiversity. Formed by the ice age, the ever-changing tide and man, who cultivated the marsh by damming in land. The area is visited by millions of migrating birds each year. Fishing, farming, hunting and collection of foodstuff have long traditions in the area. When asked to describe the area they live in, the first words that come to mind of most of my informants are: Flat, water and windy - That is exactly what this area is. Therefore it has been subdued to floods and terrible storms causing death to thousands of people and animals. Even to day with all our advanced technologies the people of the Wadden Sea are still falling victims to the mood swings of nature. However, the biggest impact and change the area has encountered over the last 100 years is the introduction of tourism. Today it is one of the main occupations in the area.
The tourism sector and nature - the dilemma of staying alive

"Even though all the little shops look as if they were only intended for tourists, it is very lively here. I thought it would be desolated. But 9.30 a.m. in Nordby on Fanø there were delivery vans, cyclists, dog walkers and people picking up bread at the bakery and the paper at the tobacco store. Now the tourists have come out of their hiding places and bounce about in their windbreakers and wellingtons. The shop owners have proclaimed that they are very busy, apparently four customers in a shoe store are considered stressful. One of the shopkeepers told me that the tourism is turning into a problem, as it has become more and more an all year round season. The dunes are being destroyed because the tourists do not know that you do not walk in the dunes in the winter." (Field note 17.10.00)

Hundreds of thousands tourists come to the Wadden Sea each year. Mainly Danes and Germans, who are fond of the long, wide beaches, the unique bird life, landscapes and flora. The people of the Wadden Sea all agree that the most important source of income is tourism and that many of the small island societies simply could not exist without it. People who are not directly employed in tourism still depend on it in order to, for example, send their children to a local school or keep an all year-open grocer store:

"It is only an advantage with tourists for us, the island is nothing worth without them, they would not even have a school for the children." (51- year- old man, Rømø, owner of grocer shop)

Many people also use tourism as a mean of gaining an extra income by: Renting out bikes, selling home-made jam, snaps, paintings, poetry, woollen sweaters or amber jewellery - all goods which have a relation to nature:

"We take a pride in quality tourism here - not so many tourists but the good ones. They come here for the peace and quiet. The number of tourists we have now is adequate. We sell a little jam to the tourists ourselves." (76-year-old man, Mandø, retired lector)

At the same time the population is torn concerning what they view as proper tourism. Most of them are of the opinion that tourists are harmful to the nature that they themselves depend. Either because tourists come in large numbers or because they do not know how to interact with nature:

"It's boring on Rømø in the winter when there are no tourists. But still in the summer they make a mess on the beach and they don't know how to interact the right way with nature." (24-year-old man, Rømø, unemployed IT-worker)

If natural surroundings such as dunes, marsh or d**es are destroyed by harmful interaction with nature, then so is the ability of human life in the Wadden Sea area, as houses, towns and fields will be flooded. Some see restrictions on access for tourists (not for themselves) as a solution. Others view that option as both destructive to the industry of tourism and to nature itself:

"Individuals are stopping the development here, Fanø has much more crowded tourism. Here there is air and space. Tourists don't destroy nature they keep to the tracks. It is the nature guides from Tønnisgård who destroys nature by picking flowers on their way doing guided tours they should just tell about the Wadden Sea instead. More conservation would limit our possibilities and put even more pressure on the "free" areas. The utility of the beach is limited because of the protection restrictions - using the beach for open-air concerts; free access for cars and a triathlon would harm no body. Surfing and buggy driving is allowed that is good." (58-year-old man, Rømø, director of Summerhouse Rental Company)

On the islands of Fanø and Rømø they are concerned about the low quality of tourists they have experienced over the last years. On Mandø they seem at ease with both the concept of tourism and the number of tourists that they receive each year. They themselves explain that there is a: "Natural limit to tourism on Mandø". There is no bridge, no ferry and no dam to Mandø. Tourists have to: "Drive on the water" and thereby come and go with the tide.
Fishermen of the Wadden Sea and nature - a banned living

"I'm looking for fishermen and the harbourmaster drives pass me in his car. He shouts at two fishermen in a boat, tells them that a nice girl wants to talk to them. On Torben's boat we drink beer and they put up at bottom trawl so that I can be taught how it works. I have to pee on the deck. They call Svend because he knows a lot." (Field note 6.11.00)

After a fearful climb across two boats I find myself in the small, cosy cabin of Torben's boat. The skipper Torben and the fisherman Kurt open a couple of beers. They look at me, a bit disinterested and puzzled. I do not really like boats and my stomach turns over from the very thought of drinking a beer at 10.00 a.m. Then I tell them who I am working for and what I want. All the disinterest vanishes and more information than I can cope with starts pouring out: They draw maps, but up the bottom trawl, make me write everything down and to take pictures of their nets.

I use informed consent while conducting fieldwork (Fluehr-Loban 1994). I have been afraid that I disagreeociation with the WWF would make people who depend on nature for a living deny me access, as they have reason to despise conservation organizations. But I disagreeociation to the WWF has the opposite effect - it opens doors to a universe that might otherwise have been closed off to me. Peoples'[7] anger towards or love of conservation make them eager to tell about their attitude towards nature; Explain, draw and show what is wrong and what should be done in their opinion. For many it is their one chance to let it all out and be heard and they use it to the full extend. I try to further informants eager to teach me by using role- playing (Otto 1997). In the field I am a well-spoken and engaged university student, but I play on having a naive and girlish knowledge of real life experience. Even when I am fully aware of what the informants are trying to explain to me, I pretend to be rather ignorant of the subject that makes them go into tiny details, thus having the benefit of producing new knowledge.

The fishers and skippers are in distress. Due to nature conservation they are not allowed to fish in the Wadden Sea any more, and they are not allowed to scrape the bottom for common mussels or even to cultivate them on banks (kulturbanker). The fishermen find that a complete waste of resources. All they can do is shrimp fishing in the North Sea. Shrimp fishing is doing well and there is a large shrimp industry at Havneby, Rømø. There are still no quotas on that, but they are afraid that that will be the next move from the authorities, so they have formed a trilateral shrimp organisation with shrimp fishers from Holland, Denmark and Germany. They arrange their own restrictions to show the outside world that they do not need controlling and moreover, to keep up the price on shrimp.

There are also extra-income fishers (deltidsfiskere/fritidsfiskere) and sports fishers (lystfiskere) in the Wadden Sea area. Sports fishers and extra-income fishers argue over the utility of streams and lakes. The sports fisher associations do a lot to conserve the original fish species, put out fish fry, mark fish and only use fishing rods. They claim that the extra-income fishers exploit the fishing population by using various traps. Thereby catching everything that swims by and not selected species. According to informants in Højer, Mandø, Rømø and Ribe, a few people still make an extra-income from fishing, but it has been made very difficult after the ban on fishing in the Wadden Sea and the building of the advanced d**e[8] in 1981:

"The social life dies, the old people used to set out traps and just use the catch for their own cooking pots. They were old sailors who had returned home, fishing gave them a social life, now it is banned and they just sit at home and do nothing." (51-year-old man, Rømø, museum inspector).

"Fisheries are on decline. I have inherited a fishing lot from my dad, and I wanted to do a little fishing just for my own needs and friends' and family's', but there is not much fish only a little eel and plaice..." ( 41-year-old woman, Højer, adult teacher)

Informants blame the large protected seal population on Korresand for having rid the Wadden Sea of fish - rarely the exploitation from the fishing industry or waste- water discharge from farms.[/size]

Source: http://www.anthrobase.com/Txt/A/Anderskov_C_02.htm

Tuesday, September 20th, 2005, 12:09 PM
Farmers and hunters of the Wadden Sea and nature - a living under dismantling

"I want to go home! I'm so fed up with these people. Only three interviews in one day. The snotty farmers wouldn't talk to me. I have walked 8 kilometres in crap weather, my back aches and my feet are cold and wet. I have knocked on least 20 farm doors and been welcomed by suppressed wives, who think that it is a better idea to ask the neighbour 2 kilometres down the road or come back when their husband returns." (Field note 7.11.00)

I was supposed to talk to everybody; men and woman aged 18 to 70, farmers, students and millionaires. Sometimes it did not work out the way I planned. First of all, using random sampling, as I did in most cases, one does not know the age of the person living behind the door one knocks on. I learned to look for signs of age: What car they drive, the way the garden is made out, flowerpots and curtains, but even that cheated sometimes. I have been interviewing people aged 17 to 85. Secondly, certain age groups are difficult to find. On the islands the age average is high and in the towns people aged 25 - 40 years do not have time for an interview, as they are working. Further more, women are a big problem: Young women do not have as much free time as men[9] and older married women do not talk to strangers. I had more success with lonely widows. Snowball sampling was also used especially on Rømø, where the island was torn over, and in itself crystallized, the whole question of utility of nature, - what one informant referred to as a " civil war". Here I experienced getting lists[10] from my informants and being told whom to talk to and whom not to talk to. That was of course a nice and easy way to find the next informant but it caused some distress, as the promised anonymity of the informants could not be upheld. (Fluehr-Loban 1994). However, I do not consider this an ethical dilemma, because the entire island already knew who their opponents were, otherwise they would not have been able to give me detailed lists.

"I disturb a young farmer's wife, her three children and her mother in the middle of their afternoon coffee. The young wife and her husband are about to wind up their farm. They have ecological farming with 50 diary cows and a lot of sheep. They can't cope with it no longer and will move to a detached house. There are too many restrictions and protection rules on their land and they can't make it go around. The husband now works at the mussel factory at Havneby and a Dutch farmer is buying the farm. He will have 100 cows and no sheep. The brother in law steps in the door. He is going duck hunting with his younger brother later. He hates conservation it ruins everything. When he was a child the Wadden Sea was a big playground, now everything is protected. He blames the authorities in Copenhagen and the islands' "south team", which constitute new comers who want to conserve the whole island - both nature and houses." (Field note 6.11.00)

Jens Aage from Mandø and Henning from Højer are both farmers and hunters. They support the idea of conservation if it is: Reasonable, that is, having the benefit of keeping the small societies alive or hinder access for the people who destroy nature, namely tourists.

Jens Aage Christian has 40 breeding cows and a hundred sheep. His local hunting association on Mandø is taking the Danish Agency for Forestry and Energy to court for wanting to make more restrictions on the utility of natural resources. According to the islanders, they have bought all the rights to utilise the natural resources in the area from a Danish king[11] - nobody not even the nation state, can take that away from them. Jens Aage is frustrated because the islanders have to use expensive otter stops in their eel traps although their are no otter on Mandø; they are not allowed to plant new trees on the island, though this could reduce sand flight and create shelter for wildlife and cattle. The authorities say that trees look unnatural, they have to buy a 250 kr. fishing card in order to fish in their own d**e graves (digegrave), which they themselves have dug out and they have not been not to make a put and take lake on the island after biologists discovered the rare brown frog there.

Henning has a big diary farm in Højer and seems like a wealthy farmer. His livingroom is impressive. It is his wife's pride and joy and it looks like something straight out of the American soap, Dallas. Half of the room has a glass facade, which turns towards the marsh and d**es. Henning and his wife drag me out to the see the view and talk with great enthusiasm about all the geese they heard last evening - thousands of them, making patterns in the sky and grassing in the marsh. Henning is the d**e master of Højer (digegreve). The security of the d**es is his responsibility. It is he who has to know every inch of the d**e and strike alarm in case of penetration of the d**e. He is also a member of the " Council of 21" (21 mands udvalget), which advises the municipality in nature and protection questions. He fights conservation projects in the area with his life and soul, as he is afraid that the farmers and hunters will be driven out of the area completely. A development that he already sees happening due to the conservation of a kog[12]. He finds it outrageous that the farmers who made and protected the land are driven out, while busses full of visitor are driven in to come and watch the birds and walk around in the area.

Tuesday, September 20th, 2005, 12:10 PM
Living with nature as a place of recreation and of visual beauty

Following quotations are what informants replied to the question: "What is the Wadden Sea to you?" or: "What is the meaning of nature to you?". The selected informants represent the general answers gained from people who do not depend directly on nature for a living. They mainly come from the cities and larger towns:

"To me it is the fields by the Wadden Sea that means the most to me. I think of it as a place where the sky opens and you can scream your heart out... I wouldn't be able to live in the city. I need to be able to go out in the garden or take a long walk in the fields." (19-year-old woman, Tjæreborg, student at Esbjerg Statsskole)

"I come from Esbjerg. The smell of the water has different varieties they give a calming feeling it gives a calming atmosphere so that I can think and relax." (49-year-old woman, Skærbæk, unemployed)

To many informants nature is a place for recreation, a place to "stress off" as they call it. It is a place - a place that one goes out into, in many cases in order to get away from something else such as: The city, noise, daily life, school or work.

"I always return to the beautiful landscape. I depend on it physically and psychologically, it makes me feel at ease. I enjoy the walks, birds, air and the sound of silence." ( 59-year-old man, Esbjerg, audiologopæd)

They seek out nature on their holidays as well; Go to national parks all over the world and other places of natural beauty. They have great interest in looking at animal life especially species considered exotic, such as seals.

"The Wadden Sea means a lot to me in the summer, lots of new people come to Rømø. I go there to swim and meet new people at the discos." (19-year-old man, Gånsager, apprentice machine maker)

"I've been there with my school, but mostly we use the beach for the horses we drive them to Rømø and then ride them in the water it's very healthy for their hoofs and it trains their mussels. All horse owners here do that." (20-year-old woman, Skærbæk, stable girl)

Nature is also a place of gaining new experiences. It is an exciting place or a place for practicing a certain hobby. Half of these informants oppose nature conservation. Some out of sympathy with the primary users of natural resources - but primarily because they want access to nature themselves. As an ethical consideration I had chosen honesty as the path through the minefield of conflicting interests. But I found it hard to cope with this particular attitude. Although I myself enjoy a good walk and a nice view, I could not find any understanding for, or energy to argue with people, who placed a stroll on the beach and a bunch of snoring seals higher than a fisherman's opportunity to make a living.
A last remark on doing fieldwork - making a study reliable and valid

As described in the above I have used various methods to secure the reliability and validity of this project. The following, and finally the analysis, will concern itself with other aspects of securing trustworthiness to a study.

The 150 interviews have been conducted by using a WWF pre-made questionnaire[13] with 42 mainly qualitative questions as an interview guide, where the interviewer "fills out" the questions by using semi structured interview techniques. ( Bernard 1994 p. 208:220). From the very beginning of the study I felt uncomftable with using questionnaires as the main data for my fieldwork. Because the hermeneutic circle of inquiry could not be used to its' full extend, in the sense that the primary research questions could not be changed during the process of the study. (Marshall and Rossman 1999 p. 26). But to my surprise it has been a positive experience working with questionnaires: I did not forget questions which furthers consistency in the responses, it was easy to lead the informant back on track, it was easy to ask "in" to certain topics as the primary questions were very general and people take you serious when you have a professional questionnaire at hand. I will use questionnaires as interview guides for field works to come and I will advice others to try it as well.

However, I would not use it with out actually being in the field, meeting people face to face: Being shown their homes, gardens, farms, boats, horses and fields, measuring my own and informants moods continually and trying to participate in whatever actions they are engaged in[14] is essential to a study. (Otto 1997). Otherwise the context disappears and the interviews turn into hollow, fragmented words. My diary of field notes consisting of context descriptions, personal and theoretical thoughts and information not fit for the questionnaire is therefore just as important to the study as the actual interviews. My diary made the interviews comprehensible and meaningful. (Sanjek 1990 p. 109-110). The problem was therefore not the data quality - but the data quantity:

I have done 150 interviews in 27 days which equals 5,5 interviews a day. That is just the people I have interviewed. I will not even try to count the people I asked for an interview, chatted with, watched, or in any other way gained information from. My employers had told me that the average interview was expected to last 15 minutes. That was what I was being paid for. I have however conducted interviews lasting from anything between 10 minutes to 3 hours with an average of about 35 minutes, which I find to be the minimum for a proper interview.

While interviewing, the ethnographer is in the limelight and on centre stage the entire time: Smiling, open, willing to listen to life stories and heartaches, taste dry homemade buns, drink beer and coffee at all hours or go into arguments about the topic at hand. Some days I went with the flow and made great quality interviews. Other days I shut down and concentrate on getting as many interviews as possible, which surely lowered the quality and thereby both the validity and credibility. Doing quick and dirty ethnography has never been my style. But I saw myself doing it out of time pressure and anger at not being paid to spend the time it takes to make a proper interview. It put me in an ethical dilemma in regard to representing my informants correctly (Fluehr-Loban 1994). How could I claim to know anything about their way of life from a 15 minutes interview? I could not! Therefore I chose the hard way most of the time, trying to meet the magic number of 150 and at the same time doing long, engaged interviews.

I did not make it: My fieldwork ended on Saturday the 9th of December at interview number 142. After having conducted 7 interviews in one day on Fanø, I collapsed three times on the train home. I experienced a major memory gap of the event and was set off the train as I was considered a "security risk". I was hospitalised and given oxygen in order to stabilise my pulse, before being sent home on the train as a shaking nerve wreck

I will not advice anybody to do 150 interviews and at the same time try doing proper ethnography, unless of course they have "superhuman powers" at hand.

Tuesday, September 20th, 2005, 12:10 PM
Making sense of patterns in the sand

In general I have used the hermeneutic cycle of inquiry (Marshall and Rossman 1999: 26) as an approach to the analysis, and more specifically Michael Agar's Strip Analysis Theory (Agar 1986). However, instead of starting over each time, I have found a heterogeneity in the data samples and, ending up with a holistic fallacy (which I find Agar doing (Agar 1986: 27-30)), I have incorporated the heterogeneities in the final categories of nature users.

I regard it as the biggest dilemma for our scholarly field that we produce revolutionary discoveries in sometimes well-known fields, but cannot make ourselves appear trustworthy in the eyes of others as we lack a straightforward, comprehensible, and less subjective analysis method. (Lincoln and Guba 1985: 289). I have tried to overcome that dilemma by processing my interviews in a homemade Access Database. Thus, the reader can see examples of how the concrete analysis is done[15]. Moreover, had I had the space for it, to take the reader through the analysis step by step. Let me give a clarifying example:

To measure "relation to nature" I started by choosing four different questions from the questionnaire, which I believed to say something about this issue: Support of conservation, opinion of conservation, opinion of fisheries and farming. I then divided the responses into gender, age, occupation, parents' occupation and residence. The whole time cross-checking for homogeneities, heterogeneities in the data and triangulating the samples. Trying out many logical possibilities and sometime illogical possibilities, just to see what would turn up.

It can all be done within split seconds and it is possible to crosscheck as many factors at once as one wishes. However, there is a limit if one wishes to keep the well-structured overview that this analysis procedure provides. This approach makes it easy to quantify qualitative data and qualify quantative data, which if not avoids, then at least hinders premature closure and fixation on one set of responses (Tashakkori and Teddlie 1998). Furthermore this approach has the advantage of keeping the categories emic compared to other qualitative data programmes such as Nud.ist, where the analyser makes up the categories.[16] Thereby the categories are made etic instead of emic, which has the danger of representing the ethnographer's and not the informants' point of view. Theoretical triangulation of the relevant literature has been used, as one theoretical direction could not answer all the questions turning up during the analysis (Hammersley and Atkinson 1997: 214).
So what is the perception of nature and the relation to nature among the Danish Wadden Sea population?

I was advised to select a single site for my analysis, and for some time it seemed as a reasonable option to use Rømø[17]. The idea of singling out Rømø for the analysis was distorted as knowledge of heterogeneities in the population appeared in the different sites. Knowledge that in my opinion had to be included in the analysis, if I was to answer the objectives of this paper with regard to the "truth" and not to finding the easiest and most comprehensible explanations.

I wanted to transfer Højrup and Rahbek's categories of lifestyles[18] on to my data. I was convinced that informants relation to nature was dependent on their choice of occupation and in turn that their perception of nature was dependent on their relation to nature. Informants' relations to nature and perception of nature could in most cases be explained by their occupation and the related personal ideology inscribed in that particular occupation. But heterogeneities came up, which could not be explained that easily: Was a doctor also a hunter, that hobby gave him the same relation to nature as a farmer or a full-time fisherman and thereby the same perception of nature. According to Højrup and Rahbek that should not be possible - but it was, practise did not " live up" to the theory.

I could not completely rule out occupation as the independent factor, but at the same time it surely was far from being the concomitant factor I had believed it to be. The analysis became very complex as other factors were just as important to measure informants'perception of nature and relation to nature: Physical or mental closeness to nature, closeness to nature as a life threat[19], parents' occupation, hobbies, attitude towards authorities, extra-income gaining activities, years lived in the area, direct dependency on tourism, indirect dependency on tourism and age. Furthermore, it was not possible to conclude that relation to nature comes before perception of nature, only that they are connected - because does a man suddenly wake up one morning and decides to become: A hunter, a member of the Danish Society for the Conservation of nature or an amber collector? The closest I have come to an answer to that is: Peoples relation to nature and perception of nature is dialectic. Peoples' perception of nature depends on their relation to nature and their relation to nature depends on the perception of nature. Therefore the following nature user categories derived from the analysis, could just as well have been based on perception of nature instead of relation to nature, as the two are inseparable. However, I have chosen to base them on relation to nature, as I believe that most readers are more familiar with the different relations to nature than different perceptions of nature.

Tuesday, September 20th, 2005, 12:11 PM
Findings in the circumference of the nature user categories

It is significant that all categories of users are "gendered". Women from the childbearing age and up perceive their relation to nature as having a lot to do with children - they start talking about children constantly, though they were asked questions that have no direct connection to children. Men from all categories and all age groups are more likely than women to talk about nature in economic terms, calculating the costs/benefits of certain utilities of nature. Moreover, all categories of users refer to the Wadden Sea as:

Home, a place of drawing light, open spaces and high to the sky, which they think they can never leave or will always return to..."

That might sound as something they made up to impress the ethnographer. But when I cross-checked the data on place of birth, education, and residence, it showed that people of the Wadden Sea are very immobile.[20] I have not been able to analyse the hypotheses fully, but there are strong indications, as mentioned above, that the people of the Wadden Sea [say that they] are so dependent on their natural surroundings for their well-being that they cannot live anywhere else. I would therefore not do the tertiary nature users justice, if the reader or I regarded them as having "no real relation to nature" or a "strictly visual or detached relationship to nature," compared to the other categories. In this sense, all categories of users have something in common.

However, arguing that there is a dialectic relationship between people's relation to nature and perception of nature leads us to another point. Why do these different categories of people, in spite of their commonalities, have difficulties understanding each other? I conclude that because the relationship is dialectic, a farmer cannot suddenly see the world from a teacher's perspective. His perception of nature does not "allow" him to do so (and the other way around), as the perception is "bound" by his relationship to nature. They will always be "talking" from two opposite ends of a continuum, as perception and relation cannot be separated. This finding opposes Stanley Tambiahs theory[21] where he argues convincingly that people do not belong to an "either/or" epistemology, but move back and forth along a continuum in accordance with the cultural environments and situations they find themselves in (Tambiah 1990). I do not argue that different categories of users cannot agree on many issues (as some of the features of each category are overlapping), just that they will never entirely be able to see it all from the point of view of the other side - which Tambiah claims is possible. This can also help us understand why the Wadding Sea area experiences such explicit conflicts over natural resources. The conflict is essentially economic and political, as people argue over the right to utilise natural resources, but the conflict is made worse and more difficult to solve, since people cannot understand the other side's point of view. Different perceptions of nature produce a "language barrier" between the opposed categories of nature users.

According to Højrup (1983), lawmakers, civil servants, politicians and people engaged in conservation organisations have a lifestyle similar to what I define as tertiary nature users. They decide from "above" how natural resources should be utilised and that, of course, in accordance with their own perceptions of nature. Locally, in the Wadden Sea area, these people are the most educated, most well- and outspoken; they know the "system" and which strings to pull. Their main opponents are the primary nature users, who are often less educated, not so well- and outspoken, have no strings to pull and are hostile towards the "system". It could seem likely that the tertiary nature users will "win" the conflict over natural resources in the years to come. On the other hand, the primary nature users have started "talking back". As described above, they have, for example, made their own nature associations and take lawmakers to court. Furthermore, in the Wadden Sea area there are many signs of an essentialisation of the "relation to nature" as a mean of "talking back" to intruding elements, by using an environmental discourse produced by the tertiary nature users. Basically, this is the same method of resistance that Poul Pedersen has found in religions such as Hinduism and Islam, where people use the discourse of "modern environmental concern" as a new way of making themselves heard in a globalizing world where they feel overlooked[22] (Pedersen 1995). Many primary nature users do the same. They claim that they have looked after Mother Earth for hundreds of years, lived with her in a "sustainable manner" and therefore have a special right to keep doing as they have always done - or even teach others how it should be done.

Tuesday, September 20th, 2005, 12:12 PM

We have been on a small excursion to the Wadden Sea. We have met different people from the area. We have been told about their relation to nature and their perception of nature, which has been made explicit in the analysis via the nature user categories. We have been told that, in spite of commonalities among the population, there are big conflicts of interest concerning the utility of natural resources, which seem unsolvable due to the dialectic relationship of perception/relation. We have also met the ethnographer and been taught a bit about doing fieldwork - both the ups and downs. That is all interesting. But what we all really want to know now is:

Who should have the right to utilise nature? Whom should we sympathise with and whom should we despise?

It is not my purpose to answer the above questions and provide the reader with "true" answers. There is no essential core of truth in these questions, which we can use as guidance. However, what we can do is to take into consideration all the rationales embedded in each user category, before passing judgement on anybody engaged in a conflict over natural resources. Not just the people of the Wadden Sea, but people all over the world. The nature user categories derived from this analysis may not be directly transferable to other settings - but the basic elements of them surely are. All in all, if we are ever to clear the minefield of conflicting interests and utilise "Mother Earth" in a manner, which both secures her own life-ability and the various livelihoods depending on her, we have to start understanding each other. The purpose of this small project was explanative, and hopefully it has lead to a greater understanding of - the others.

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Ingold, Tim: "Globes and Spheres." 1994. In: Milton, K. (ed.): "Environmentalism: The View From Anthropology". London and New York. Rutledge.

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Højrup, Thomas and Rahbek Christensen, Lone: "Introduktion til livsformsanalysens grundbegreber." 1989. In: Rahbek Christensen, Lone (ed.): "Livsstykker". Forlaget kulturbøger.

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Otto, Ton: "Informed participation and participating informants." 1997. In: "Canberra Anthropology". Vol. 20 p. 96-108.

Pedersen, Poul: "Nature, religion and Cultural Identity: The Religious Environmental Paradigm" 1995. In: Bruun, O and Kalland, A (eds.): "Asian Perceptions of Nature: A Critical Approach." Richmond. Curzon Press.

Sanjek, Roger: "Field notes: The making of Anthropology." 1990. Ithaca. Cornell University Press.

Tambiah, Stanley: "Magic, Science, Religion and the Scope of Rationality". 1990.Cambridge University Press.

Tashakkori, A. and Teddlie, Charles: "Mixed Methodology. Combining Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches." 1998. Thousand Oaks. Sage publications.

Appendices: see link thread opener.