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BY 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter Oldenbourg 2022

3 Europe and its Environmental Other(s): Imagining Natures for “Global” Conservation

From the book Greening Europe

  • Raf de Bont


Conservationists working in international organizations have often ascribedmeaning to European nature by comparing it with geographically distantenvironments. Over the past century, the tropics have played a prominentrole in these cross-geographical comparisons - serving as Europe’senvironmental other. This chapter argues that the dichotomy between Europeanand tropical nature has influenced conservation discourse in various ways.For a long time, it has contributed to the marginal position of Europeannature in international conservation imaginaries, which have usually focusedon the supposedly wilder tropics. In the conservationist narratives of someinstitutions (such as the Council of Europe), European nature gained a moreprominent place, but without questioning the dichotomy between Europe andthe rest of the world. In these contexts, the idea of European environmentalexceptionalism has helped to build identity, looking for the ‘Europeangenius’ in the rural environments produced by the continent’s civilization.More recently, cross-geographical comparisons have been mobilized to supportinitiatives to rewild the continent. Here, geographically distant primevalnature served as a model for what could be ‘restored’ in the Europeancontext.

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