Exploring the Social and Ecological Trade-offs in Tropical Reforestation: A Role-Playing Exercise

This exercise introduces students to the complexities of conservation in rural tropical landscapes. It introduces the concepts of payments for environmental services (PES), trade-offs and synergies between agricultural land-uses and society’s needs, and introduces students to tropical land-uses and common rural stakeholders in the tropics. The module has two main parts. In Part 1, students learn about a new reforestation program in the fictional country of Nueva Puerta and must debate how to direct the reforestation program: towards poverty alleviation, export production, water protection, or habitat connectivity. In Part 2, students break into small groups to negotiate the placement of PES in a tropical land-use simulation game. The land-use simulation is designed to show students some of the realities and limits of tropical conservation. In the final phase of the exercise, students reflect on their experiences through discussion questions. Optionally, they can write a reflective essay and/or vote which real-world reforestation project they are interested in supporting as a class.

Featured in: Ecosystem Services, Lessons in Conservation: Studio Issue

See also:
Payments for Ecosystem Services: An Introduction and Case Study on Lao PDR
Ecological Economics and Biodiversity
Stakeholder Analysis

Themes: Conservation Management, People and Conservation

Language: English

Region: Global

Keywords: ecosystem services, stakeholders, PES

Components: 4

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Exercise: Exploring the Social and Ecological Trade-offs in Tropical Reforestation: A Role Playing Exercise

Author: M. Fagan, N. Schwartz

   

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Presentation: Exploring the Social and Ecological Trade-offs in Tropical Reforestation: A Role-Playing Exercise

Author: M. Fagan, N. Schwartz

Teaching Notes: Exploring the Social and Ecological Trade-offs in Tropical Reforestation: A Role-Playing Exercise

Author: M. Fagan, N. Schwartz

Solutions: Exploring the Social and Ecological Trade-offs in Tropical Reforestation: A Role-Playing Exercise

Author: M. Fagan, N. Schwartz


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I wanted to share how I modified this exercise for an online learning environment, in case it will be useful to others. More specifically, I was conducting synchronous, online class sessions via Zoom, which required me to adapt this activity in lieu of having students gather in-person around a physical board to conduct their stakeholder negotiations. Briefly, prior to the relevant class meeting, I shared with students the portion of the Exercise document up to, but not including, Part 2. As such, students came to class with some background on tropical reforestation and the four different regions of Nueva Puerta. At the beginning of our class session together, I talked through the provided Presentation, discussing in more depth the payments for ecosystem services (PES) concept and the stakeholder role-playing exercise students would be participating in. At the conclusion of the presentation, I used Zoom polling to ask students which region of Nueva Puerta they would prioritize for the PES program, based on their pre-class reading. The majority pick in this poll became our region of interest for the subsequent role-playing exercise. Conducting the role-playing activity virtually required some creativity. First, I shared with all students (via a Google Doc) the general instructions for the stakeholder negotiation exercise (Part 2 of the Exercise document) up to, but not including, the scoring instructions for each stakeholder team. I allowed students to self-select the stakeholder team they wanted to represent, with a little bit of nudging from me to get more evenly-sized teams. At this point, I divided the stakeholder groups into different Zoom breakout rooms. Once in their breakout rooms with only their team members, I shared the scoring instructions relevant to their team. This was intended to create a little more uncertainty in their negotiation process: when negotiations actually began, students weren't necessarily sure what other stakeholder teams were trying to accomplish, although some of that became more clear to them throughout the process. After teams had some opportunity to review their scoring rules (I went to the various breakout rooms to provide clarifications), we came back together as one large group to begin the stakeholder negotiation. To conduct the negotiations virtually, I screenshared a Google Slide with a copy of the regional map so that all students were working with the same image. From here, negotiations proceeded in a relatively free-form manner. Some students/teams were more vocal, pushing for the placement of payments in various spots across the map. Others tended to negotiate or add thoughts via the Zoom chat. When a payment was agreed upon by all relevant parties, I simply placed an "A, "T, or "C" on the relevant map square (representing agroforestry, timber, or conservation payments, respectively). In some cases, where there were complex negotiations about multiple payments simultaneously, I inserted placeholder shapes on the Google Slide to clarify and make sure everyone was talking about the same payment square. This was really the only major difficulty in conducting this activity online: sometimes students and I had trouble getting on the same page and identifying the correct map square since I was the only person able to move the cursor on the map and place payments. In general, I think the exercise was quite successful. In two different sections, all payments got placed on the board. And the entire exercise finished well within our allotted three hour course lab session in both instances. For grading of the activity, I adapted a handful of questions from the Exercise document, which students completed via our online learning management system. I had one question that called back to the pre-class reading (asking for a justification of the region of Nueva Puerta they would prioritize for the PES program), while the others concerned the negotiation process itself. I had students who wanted to discuss the exercise again in subsequent class periods, and I found the activity to be particularly useful placed early on in my class (connected to ecosystem services). As the semester progressed, whenever we encountered a real-world conservation conflict, it was helpful to ask students to recall their own negotiation process and the varied outcomes of their stakeholder role-playing exercise.Evan Eskew, 12/15/2020