A contribution to understanding contemporary people-environment dynamics : South African approaches in context.
People's level of development is a significant determinant in their relationship to wild nature. People today characterized by a high level of development value wild natural resources primarily for non-consumptive aesthetic and humanistic purposes. Modern nature conservation has been dominated by developed peoples' concerns with wild nature. Concerns of developed peoples with wild nature are described by a resourcism-preservationism paradigm. In contrast underdeveloped peoples rely upon wild nature to maintain the integrity of their cultures and increasingly for purposes of physical survival and promoting, development; this involves consumptive use of wild nature. As all people increasingly become part of a global development trajectory, resourcism-preservationism is articulating itself as the global people-environment dynamic. Emergent relations between nature conservation agency staff and reserve neighbours in South Africa offer a unique opportunity to study competing concerns around wild nature and assess the ability of approaches which link conservation and development to meet developed and underdeveloped peoples' concerns. Evaluation of reserve-neighbour interaction at Giant's Castle and Kosi Bay areas is achieved through determining whether it empowers reserve neighbours and conservation agency staff; fundamental to empowerment is people managing natural resources themselves. Natal Parks Board's and KwaZulu Department of Nature Conservation's frameworks for extension do not empower reserve staff or neighbours at Giant's Castle and Kosi Bay respectively. Trends in competition between developed and underdeveloped peoples for use of wild nature evidenced in field studies mirror global trends in people-environment relations. Recent attempts in South Africa and internationally to address the concerns of underdeveloped peoples, witnessed in efforts to link development to conservation such as reserve-neighbour interaction, are efforts by developed people to protect their particular concerns with wild nature. As a result these attempts have not been integrated into a larger conservation and development process. Instead they have been plagued by short term vision among nature conservation agencies and reserve neighbours. Linking conservation and development is a process fundamental to the future of conservation, benefitting people at all levels of development. A fundamental redefinition of conservation agency objectives and restructuring conservation agency operations is required such that people are empowered to manage their own natural resources. Principles to guide and an approach for structuring such an undertaking are proposed involving collaboration with relevant agents.