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‘Land grab’: an environmental issue?
‘Land grab’: an environmental issue?

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1 Analytical concepts used in this course

In this course you will touch on how three sets of analytical concepts – first, time and space; second, risk and uncertainty; and third, values, power, and agency – can help you focus on different aspects of the environmental implications of land acquisition. The box below offers brief definitions of each of these sets of concepts.

Box 1 Analytical concepts: definitions

  • Geographers and Environmental Studies researchers use the concepts of time and space to think both about the fact that environmental change always touches down in particular places and at particular moments, and the fact that to understand the full impact of these changes we often need to look further afield.
  • Geographers and Environmental Studies researchers use the concepts of risk and uncertainty to draw attention to the fact that decisions about environmental issues are almost always taken in light of imperfect, incomplete or unclear information.
  • Geographers and Environmental Studies researchers use the concepts of values, power and agency to help understand key factors shaping environmental issues:
    • Values refer to what is of worth, merit, or importance. They include the principles, beliefs, and ethical standpoints of the various individuals and groups involved in environmental issues.
    • Power is difficult to define but can include the material resources that a given person or group can deploy in pursuit of their objectives, and the ability of individuals and groups to shape the discourses that people use when they communicate (and thus set agendas that others involved may accept as legitimate, fair and authoritative). A discourse in this sense may include a powerful idea or set of ideas, shared values and certain understandings that people come to accept.
    • Agency is the difference that a social actor – individual or group – makes to the world and is shaped both by power (what actors can achieve) and by values (what actors want to achieve).