Kontroverser om biologisk mangfold i norske skoger
To maintain biological diversity is an important aim for Norwegian environmental policies, and the Nature index for Norway is supposed help this policy by surveying the situation for biodiversity in Norway. The nature index is developed by the Norwegian Directorate for Nature Management (DN) and is based on a combination of quantitative data and qualitative evaluations. The index covers the situation for nine ecosystems and is based upon 309 indicators. The aim has been to develop an index giving a concrete numeric measure of the situation for Norwegian nature where the value of zero (0) represents an ecosystem in seriously bad conditions and the value one (1) is the reference state which is supposed to reflect the size of populations in areas with low human influences. The reference state is not to be understood as a political aim. The index for forest is built upon 72 indicators. When it comes to the conclusion for the situation for biodiversity in Norwegian forests, the report says that «Overall, open lowland and forests have the poorest state of all the major ecosystems â€¦» (Nybø 2010, page 6). At first glance, the index seems to indicate that the biodiversity situation in the forests is poor, but at the same time, it is emphasised that there are serious problems with the index value for the forest: lack of time series data, a large proportion of qualitative expert knowledge and difficulties in setting the standard for the reference state. Because of such problems, the report say, one should be very careful when comparing indices across ecosystems. The nature index for forest thereby communicates a certain ambiguity: on the one hand the best science can do, on the other, precautions with respect to how to interpret the result. Against this background, the Nature index for Norway was presented September 2010. The low value on the index for forest immediately sparked many and mostly critical reactions, and the aim of this study has been to study the debate that developed more in detail. A content analysis illustrates how the debate took form and what it looked like. Interviews with persons central to the debates provide information for interpretations of why the topic turned out to be so conflictual. Finally, the aim of the article is to suggest some general insights into what really hinders a consensual application of scientific knowledge in processes as the nature index. The first empirical part of the study is a content analysis of the reactions to and debate on the nature index. During the first year, but mostly the first month after the release of the index, there were 82 articles on the nature index and the forest. Four groups of newspapers stood out as central to the debate: (1) Nationen, (2) Adressa/Trønderavisa, (3) other national papers and (4) other local papers. Furthermore, the analyses showed that the theme was debated (op-eds, editorials and opinions) rather than neutrally presented. The next step was to identify central actors in the debate: both as individuals and as institutions. Focusing on institutions, Ministry of Environment was the most active actor and clearly supportive to the index, Ministry of Agriculture and Food was more critical, whereas researchers seemed more mixed: SSB as positive, other as more critical or neutral. Organizations representing the forest industry appeared as mostly critical whereas environmental organizations were positive or neutral 37 percent of the articles were critical to the nature index and the forest, just as many were neutral, and 26 percent were positive. The most frequent point of critique had to do with the reference state (N=18), followed by discussions of the communication related to the index (14). Thereafter, many actors were concerned with the problems of (not) distinguishing politics and science (9), whereas pointing out the lack of appropriate data also was mentioned in several papers (6). To better understand the reasons for the conflicts appearing in the newspapers, 14 people central to the debates were interviewed. Results from these qualitative analyses are presented in two parts: one more directly linked to what the interviewees report, the other interpreting the finding as part of the larger context. The first topic coming up in most of the interviews is the question of the reference state, and three aspects of the question are discussed. First, many of the interviewees are worried about the relation between the reference state as a scientific and political measure. Second, there is a focus upon how the construction of the nature index has consequences for the forest-index. As a third concern, the communication related to the publication of the index is very much in focus. Even though the overall aim is that the nature index should be based on quantitative measures, these types of data are not available for most of the indicators, and the nature index is, accordingly, to a large extent based on expert knowledge. Because of this lack of quantitative data, some of the discussants claim that the data are simply not good enough. Furthermore, the forest industry is worried for the tendency to, in spite of the call to the opposite, compare across indices leading to the conclusion that the situation is worse in the forest than other ecosystems. Interpreting the interviews as part of the larger context, it becomes indeed clear that the involved actors see themselves as belonging to different societal segments, and very briefly: those working close to the forestry industry are critical to the index, those working with environment are positive. This does not imply that structural positions determine opinions, but identities linked to segments impregnate the whole debate, and structural positioning is reflected in opinions on which knowledge is the best and most relevant. Next, all actors appear as genuinely interested in the development of the forest and want to legitimate their own interests, knowledge and values as being to the best for the forest. Finally, the debate dovetails with the question of who really represents the environment or are most concerned with the forest, and this â€˜politics of identity’ seems to intensify the debate. We wind up the report answering the question of what the hindrances for a successful use of science in environmental policy processes are through the concept of â€˜boundary work’. Boundary work implies to study relations between science and other societal arenas as a continuous struggle for the legitimacy of science and the question of what should be hegemonic knowledge and values in a field. DN has based their work with the nature index in an ideal where scientists produce the best available knowledge, where after politicians should prioritize how to act on this knowledge. Even though most participants tend to agree that this is a reasonable strategy to follow to legitimate the nature index, they do not assume that this is how the process of scientific knowledge actually works in the field of politics. As mentioned, our qualitative data are interpreted on two levels. First, with respect to the level of factual communication related to the nature index, most participants seem to agree that the communication, especially related to the publication of the main report, could have been better. Several interviewees also indicate that groups representing interests in the field could have been involved to a higher degree. Secondly, at the general level, there is no doubt so that the index delivers information in a field with deep, historical and well known conflicts of interest between groups of actors. Those working with the nature index face a divided field with two set of actors that, even though they agree on certain issues and claim to have common aims and interests, basically want to develop Norwegian forests differently. Both have to legitimize their interests which inevitably leads to, sometimes, intense debates. Even when wise strategies and good communication prevails, such structurally embedded disagreements do not disappear. Nevertheless, boundary work matters and how the nature index was and will be communicated and presented is certainly decisive for how the interaction between science and politics develop.Naturindeks for Norge er utarbeidet for å bedre arbeidet medbiologisk mangfold, og vurderer tilstanden i ni økologiske systemer. Da den første versjonen av indeksen ble lansert høsten 2010,ble det diskusjon omkring indeksens vurdering av tilstanden fordet biologiske mangfoldet i skogen. I denne rapporten ser vi nærmere på denne debatten. Ved hjelp av en innholdsanalyse beskriver vi når og hvor debatten foregikk, hvem som deltok, hvor kritisk den var, og hva som var gjenstand for kritikk. Med utgangspunkt i intervjuer med sentrale personer, ser vi så nærmere på hvordan de ulike aktørene beskriver og begrunner sine posisjoner. Dernest fortolker vi aktørenes posisjonering i en større sammenheng og finner klare spor av segmentering: næring mot miljø. Til slutt ser vi på debatten i lys av begrepet om grensearbeid: Kampen om legitim kunnskap.
- NOVA - Rapport