About Jonathan McLeod
The purpose of my research to contribute to our knowledge of how we as a species can create new social, economic, and livelihood systems in light of global climate change and severe ecological degradation, including what it means to "develop" or to be "modern". I proceed, cautiously, under the premise that marginalized and indigenous populations have the potential to offer important and exciting insights about how we can find new pathways towards prosperity and social well-being which avoid many of the pitfalls of outdated and dangerous approaches to industralization.
My dissertation research will explore these issues in the "Bird's Head" of West Papua, Indonesia. This region of dense tropical rainforests and robust coral reef environments is one of the most biological diverse on Earth, yet is situated in a country that now faces the fastest rates of deforestation in the world, and thus the third highest carbon emissions after only China and the United States. It is increasingly clear that solving Indonesia's deforestation problem is a matter of grave concern not only to the peoples who depend on healthy local ecosystems, but to all of humanity. New environmental and conservation initiaves, including UN REDD+ programs, now coexist with long-standing patterns of resource extraction and environmental destruction, making Indonesia a particularly rich place to study the political, economic and ideological struggles that occur in the creation new development paradigms. As people in the Bird's Head actively pursue the sometimes contradictory goals of conservation and economic opportunity to achieve "low carbon" development, I will focus on the complex of rationalities, knowledge systems, and beliefs that are giving shape to their particular and evolving vision of sustianable development, which now more than ever is in dialogue with global and scientific discourses that acknowledge ecological and climatic forces on a global scale.