Developing global environmental policies, and implementing these at a local level has proven extremely challenging. I will present research using ethnographic techniques and multi-level analysis of land use decision-making in Indonesia’s tropical peatlands. Successive interventions have led to unanticipated ecological disturbance of peat ecosystems and affected indigenous land practices and relationships to these complex systems. Using multi-level governance concepts, I will illuminate problems of collective action and uncertainty. Specifically, I will describe power imbalances and conflicts among government agencies, corporations, villagers, and conservation actors in aspects of decision-making. In tropical peatlands, villagers experience diminishing access to land and navigate competing environmental conservation and land development priorities, including priorities for expanding oil palm plantations and implementing Reducing Emissions for Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) as a global environmental policy mechanism. There are challenges of environmental justice and advocacy, knowledge transfer and integration of indigenous and local knowledge in appropriate design of policies and programs. I will outline ideas and approaches to interdisciplary social research that navigate multi-stakeholder processes in social and policy responses to global environmental change. Furthermore, I will examine how these ideas and approaches relate to community and collaborative adaptive management of ecosystems in tropical regions undergoing processes of change.
Anna works in Forest Policy and Climate Change, School of Ecosystem and Forest Sciences (SEFS), University of Melbourne. Her PhD research examined how global environmental policies are translated through multiple layers of governance and implemented in complex and contested landscapes. Anna’s research has an interdisciplinary focus in geography, law, and anthropology, and integrates systems thinking from complexity science. She has worked extensively in the Asia-Pacific region for international research programs and consultancy. In 2010, Anna received a Master of Environment degree from University of Melbourne specialising in environmental and climate law and policy.