UNESCO: United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization

The Organisation


Stephen Bocking

Stephen Bocking is Professor of Environmental History and Politics at Trent University, Canada.
His research is focused on the roles of science in environmental politics, examined both historically and through contemporary case studies.
His publications include many scholarly articles, as well as two books: Ecologists and Environmental Politics: A History of Contemporary Ecology (Yale University Press, 1997), and Nature's Experts: Science, Politics, and the Environment (Rutgers University Press, 2004).
He has also edited several theme issues of academic journals, as well as an edited collection, Biodiversity in Canada: Ecology, Ideas, and Action (Broadview Press, 2000).
“Linking Science and Practice: The History of UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere Programme”

The 1968 UNESCO Biosphere Conference focused attention on the need to link scientific research and dissemination of research results to the conservation of nature and natural resources. This conference eventually led to UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme, initiated in 1970. Since then, the MAB Programme has provided the basis for an innovative combination of ecological research and community-based conservation. The chief sites in which this has been pursued are the global network of biosphere reserves, of which there are now approximately 459 in 97 countries. These reserves are intended to serve as "living laboratories," enabling practical experimentation in integrated resource management.
As a chief means by which UNESCO has sought to contribute towards global sustainability, the MAB Programme is an appropriate topic for the UNESCO history project. Beyond its significance to UNESCO, the MAB Programme is also important as an ongoing experiment in linking science and practice. Thus, it has wider implications for the social responsibility of science.
It is proposed that study of the history of the MAB Programme be organized in terms of a variety of themes. Possible themes, provided for illustrative purposes, include the following:

  • The relation between research within biosphere reserves and the development of ecological and environmental research generally since the 1970s. Through study of the history of the questions, approaches, and methods applied within biospheres, the reciprocal relations between the wider scientific community and biosphere research (including the impact of this research on the development of general scientific principles), can be better understood.

  • The evolution of the relations between biosphere scientific activity and natural resource conservation within biosphere reserves. Through this theme, the changing relations – political, cultural, social and technical – between scientists and local people can be better understood.

  • The evolution of the relation between biosphere reserves and resource conservation practices outside reserves. This theme would address changes in the place and role of biosphere reserves within local and national systems of resource conservation and management. Thus, it would provide an avenue by which the broader impact of biosphere work can be understood. This theme could be addressed through cross-national comparative research.

  • Europe and North America Latin America and the Caribbean Africa Arab States Asia Pacific