Matthieu Noucher, François-Michel Le Tourneau & Pierre Gautreau, GeoJournal, August 29, 2021
The increase in the price of gold, due to a shift to safe investments during the global economic crisis, has led to a rapid expansion of gold production. Alongside legal gold mines, wildcat gold mining has developed in French Guiana since the early 2000s. This phenomenon, with its social, environmental and economic consequences, is at the heart of the environmental governance of this territory. However, its difficult quantification is the subject of multiple controversies. Environmental governance is increasingly dependent on metrological regimes aimed at quantifying political action in order to objectify it. This article examines the role of metrology in implementing environmental policies in sparsely populated regions via the example of wildcat gold mining in French Guiana. Based on the study of two observatories, one managed by public authorities, the other by an NGO, we deconstruct their maps and counter-maps of wildcat gold mining. To do so, we make a distinction between measurement, commensuration and its diffusion. This focus on “measurement-commensuration-diffusion” allows us to identify three key phases in the production of nature statistics. We argue that the critical analysis of metrological processes through this three-step framework reveals methodological controversies that reflect different and even divergent political visions. The article also shows that metrological systems for environmental protection are the focus of targeted political disputes. It reports on the current disagreements—not only between the State and NGOs but also within the State itself—on the proposed solutions for fighting the impacts of wildcat gold mining in French Guiana and the broader issues of data production in Amazonia. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10708-021-10486-3
François-Michel Le Tourneau, Cairn Info, Volume 5, Issue 2, February 2021
The ultimate symbol of untamed nature under threat, the Amazon inspires anxiety and fantasy in equal measure. Numerous French humanities and social sciences journals are endeavoring to tease out the issues at stake, calling on the voices of Latin American specialists. These voices reveal a complex, uneven, and much more nuanced reality than is suggested by the simplistic narratives that filter through the media. Certain common notions are long overdue a rethink. The Amazon is so vast and so heterogeneous in its landscapes and populations that it makes more sense to speak of it in the plural. Contrary to popular belief, it is not a sanctuary for “virgin nature” but a continuum of spaces modified and regulated by humankind for millennia; its role as a sink for atmospheric CO2 is less vital than the health of its hydrological system; and while it is abundantly clear that “colonizing” policies espoused by certain states, with Brazil at the forefront, place certain areas in peril (even those that are ostensibly protected), it is still the case that 48 percent of the Brazilian Amazon and 80 percent of the Colombian Amazon has some form of protected status. Read more...
François-Michel Le Tourneau, CNRS Editions, July 2, 2020
Depuis le début des années 2000, l’orpaillage illégal est massivement présent en Guyane et se montre, malgré un impressionnant dispositif de lutte, remarquablement résilient. Pour tenter de juguler le phénomène et ses désastreuses conséquences environnementales, un partenariat original a été noué entre le géographe François-Michel Le Tourneau, spécialiste de l’Amazonie, et les Forces armées de Guyane, dans le but d’étudier le monde parallèle des garimpeiros, ces chercheurs d’or. Mais comment gagner leur confiance ? Comment s’enquérir de leurs pratiques illégales ? Il faut faire preuve d’une honnêteté et d’une transparence sans failles, afficher immédiatement l’objectif, prouver que l’on connaît le terrain, et y revenir sans cesse.
Voici, quatre ans plus tard, le résultat de cette enquête inédite. Après avoir brossé un panorama de l’histoire et de la géographie de l’or en Amazonie, et fait un tour d’horizon des techniques d’extraction et des voies de commercialisation, l’auteur dresse le portrait de ces chercheurs d’or : qui sont-ils ? d’où viennent-ils ? Quels sont les principes qui régissent leur société parallèle et comment se déroule leur vie dans la forêt ?
David Blanchon, Frédéric Keck, François-Michel Le Tourneau, Stéphane Tonnelat and Adriana Zuniga-Teran, Metropolitics, May 8, 2020
In this essay, the authors develop the concept of “sentinel territories,” or environments where humans can perceive early warning signs of environmental change. Sentinel territories can illuminate common features of spaces where environmental issues emerge and be used as a tool to advance environmental policies.
This paper attempts to broaden the notion of “sentinel devices,” borrowed from science and technology studies (STS) scholars, to develop the concept of “sentinel territories.” Sentinel territories are spaces where early-warning signals of environmental threats can be observed. Read more...
Kirsten Engel, Esther Loiseleur and Elise Drilhon, Arizona Journal of Environmental Law & Policy, Spring issue 2020
Forty years ago, motivated by dropping water tables and land subsidence, Arizona lawmakers enacted the 1980 Groundwater Management Act. At the time, the Act was hailed as the most far-reaching state legislation to control rampant groundwater depletion ever enacted. Despite the rhetoric, however, the Act never dealt with Arizona’s groundwater usage in a comprehensive manner and today its shortcomings are starkly apparent. Plunging water tables in rural areas are forcing homeowners and businesses to either drill deeper wells or relocate. Riparian areas are being lost, and with them, Arizona’s unique desert ecosystems.
This Article argues that Arizona lawmakers must return to the drafting table to complete the work started in 1980—creation of a groundwater management code, based in science, that will ensure the equitable and sustainable use of groundwater across the entire State for current and future generations. Read more...
François-Michel Le Tourneau and William Milliken, The Conversation, April 21, 2020
The current situation of a global pandemic invites reconsideration of similar situations that happened in the past, such as the great plague in Europe in the 14th century, or the successive and devastating influenza and measles epidemics (amongst others) which decimated indigenous populations in the post-Columbian era in Latin America, and especially in the Amazon. There, in indigenous villages, people got sick and quickly died, and subsistence activities were disrupted because crippled people were too weak to gather food or tend their agricultural plots. This story unfortunately played out until a few decades ago. Read more...
Anne-Lise Boyer et Rebecca F.A. Bernat, OpenEdition, IdeAs, 15 | 2020 : Eaux et gestion de l'eau dans les Amériques
The city of Buckeye, on the west side of the Phoenix urban area (the state capital of Arizona) is the fastest growing city in the United States. Located in a semi-arid environment, the city was born at the edge of an irrigation canal in the context of the Conquest of the West. From a small farming community, Buckeye has transformed into an attractive suburb of Phoenix composed of multiple oasis-like masterplanned communities. However, this urban development is largely based on the exploitation of groundwater, regulated since the 1980s by the Groundwater Management Act, a law passed by the State of Arizona considered to be at the forefront of sustainable water management. This paper builds on how water is managed at the municipal level in Buckeye to explore the contradictions of water management in Arizona. Indeed, numbers of measures and safeguards were put in place in order to regulate the exploitation of the resource. The laissez-faire attitude of the various levels of government (State, municipalities) concerning land management is not helping to lower the pressure on the resource, which is becoming increasingly rare in the context of climate change.
François-Michel Le Tourneau, OpenEdition, IdeAs, 15 | 2020 : Eaux et gestion de l'eau dans les Amériques
An Interview with Pr. Kirsten Engel. Charles E. Ares Professor of Law, University of Arizona College of Law And Representative, Arizona House of Representatives, Legislative District 10.
François-Michel Le Tourneau: Could you describe the situation of water in your state, Arizona?
Anne-Lise Boyer et Yves-François Le Lay, OpenEdition, Vol. 10, n°3 | December 2019
Our research questions the implementation of rainwater harvesting in Tucson (Arizona) and how it can modify the southwestern United States hydrosocial cycle based on large infrastructures and managed by powerful federal and state agencies. In the context of climate change, the hydrosocial cycle in Tucson is threatened by a water shortage on the Colorado River and has become therefore a controversial issue in the public debate. The implementation of rainwater harvesting in Tucson is the outcome of two different processes: on one hand, it is a “hydrosocial fix” supported by the City to diversify its water portfolio; on the other hand, rainwater harvesting is promoted as a critique towards the current regional hydrosocial cycle. In both cases, the small and local technical systems of rainwater harvesting help materializing the hydrosocial cycle and therefore placing water issues at the heart of the inhabitant’s concerns.
François-Michel Le Tourneau, Fabrice Dubertret, L'espace géographique, Tome 48 n° 1-2019, Pages 39-56
Urban sprawl is one of the most important factors of landscape transformation in the United States. The Southwestern region, especially the state of Arizona, is often viewed as a example of this phenomenon in which significant quantities of space and water are consumed. The city of Tucson and the Pima County, where it is located, seem to be a counter-model in this respect since they have been trying to dissociate themselves from the ‘‘growth at all costs’’ model since the 1980s. Based on the statistics and spatial data available on this area, this paper compares Tucson’s declared aims and the reality of its spatial development. Crossing data from different sources, we are able to highlight not only some successes pertaining to water resource management, but also the difficulties that the authorities face in monitoring the transformation of the landscape and the urbanization, as well as resulting imbalances which will prove difficult to rectify in the medium or long term.
Jean-Christophe Pereau, Alexandre Pryet, Tina Rambonilaza, Ecological Economics, Volume 161, July 2019, Pages 109-120
The protection of environmental flows is a main challenge pursued by water regulating agencies in their groundwater management policies. A stylised hydro-economic model with natural drainage is used to compare the outcome of the optimal control approach in which environmental flows are introduced as an externality with the viable approach in which environmental flows are modelled as a constraint to satisfy. The optimal and viable paths for the water table, water extraction for irrigation and environmental flows are analytically derived together with their long-term values. We show how results are sensitive to some key parameters like the discount factor and the monetary value of the externality in the optimal control approach. We show how the value of the environmental flows target in the viable approach can be derived from the optimal control approach. Numerical simulations based on the Western La Mancha aquifer illustrate the main results of the study. Read article.
François-Michel Le Tourneau, CNRS Editions, April 4, 2019
« L’Amazonie n’existe pas » : c’est sur ce constat paradoxal que s’ouvre cet ouvrage, pour souligner que la dimension mythique et mythologique de cette région l’emporte souvent sur la réalité géographique. Tout commence par son nom, qui fait référence à une légende tirée de l’Antiquité grecque, à mille lieues du contexte de la forêt équatoriale que les voyageurs du XVIe siècle venaient d’aborder…
Dès leur arrivée, les Européens ont eu du mal à comprendre l’Amazonie, mais plutôt que d’apprendre des sociétés locales à le décoder, ils ont cherché à l’analyser sur la base de leurs références culturelles. L’ouverture de la grande forêt aux scientifiques, à partir du XIXe siècle, n’a pas dissipé cette méprise. Deux visions oscillent alors, toutes deux encore très ancrées dans nos imaginaires : celle de « l’enfer vert », hostile à l’homme, qui demande à être dompté, et celle de la « forêt vierge », pure et intouchée, qu’il faut préserver en l’état. Mal informées sur l’Amazonie, les sociétés occidentales s’obstinent à y implanter des modèles de gestion en totale inadéquation avec son environnement, entraînant des conséquences dramatiques pour les équilibres écologiques non seulement sur le plan local mais aussi sur le plan régional, voire global.
Consacré à l’Amazonie brésilienne qui représente près de 60 % de la forêt « amazonienne », cet ouvrage s’attache à étudier l’histoire longue des populations et de l’environnement en montrant que la vision occidentale relève d’un « malentendu » qu’il est urgent de lever.
François-Michel Le Tourneau, Cybergeo, article 888, March 13, 2019
Land tenure in the Western US, in particular in the most recent states, reflects the processes of appropriation which took place after the annexing of Northern Mexico by the US in 1848. It is characterized by a high proportion of public (federal and state) lands, as well as by a spatial configuration where influences of the homesteading and of land grants to railroad companies are still highly visible. Another aspect of land tenure in those states is its complexity, the number of public agencies involved and the multiple scales of intervention implied in its management. The state of Arizona is a good example of such dynamics. The paper therefore describes the private appropriation of lands in this state and the current extent of private lands. We then review the categories of public lands and their history. Finally, we pinpoint a number of difficulties that derive from the contemporary configuration of land tenure in Arizona, especially when local policies are to be developed. Link to site.
Brigitte Juanals, Jean-Luc Minel, Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence, Springer, 2018, Foundations of Intelligent Systems, pp.315-322.
This article focuses on the development of an instrumented methodology for modeling and analyzing the circulation message flows concerning air quality on the social network Twitter. This methodology aims at describing and representing, on the one hand, the modes of circulation and distribution of message flows on this social media and, on the other hand, the content exchanged between stakeholders. To achieve this, we developed Natural Language Processing (NLP) tools and a classifier based on Deep Learning approaches in order to categorize messages from scratch. The conceptual and instrumented methodology presented is part of a broader interdisciplinary methodology, based on quantitative and qualitative methods, for the study of communication in environmental health. A use case of air quality is presented. Read the article...
Shana Sandhaus, Dorsey Kaufmann and Monica Ramirez-Andreotta, International Journal of Science Education Nov 7, 2018
Gardenroots: A Citizen Science Project (2015) is the product of a needs assessment, revealing environmental quality concerns of gardeners living near hazardous waste or resource extraction activities. Participants were trained, collected garden samples for analysis, and later received their data visualized (individual and aggregated) via community events or mail. This article describes participant motivations, changes in knowledge and efficacy, and whether these depend on the mode of data sharing and visualization. Motivations were internal, and self-efficacy increased, while knowledge and satisfaction were higher in event attendees due to increased researcher contact. This reveals importance of data-sharing events, data visualizations, and participatory research processes. Link to article...
François-Michel Le Tourneau, CNRS Le Journal 2018/09
À l’occasion de la diffusion du premier épisode de la Saison 2 de « Guyane » sur Canal+, François-Michel Le Tourneau revient sur la Saison 1 et débroussaille le vrai du faux. De quoi casser quelques idées reçues sur l’orpaillage clandestin. Voir l'article...
Robin Aguilée, Fanny Gascuel, Amaury Lambert, Régis Ferrière, Nature Communications August 2018
How ecological interactions, genetic processes, and environmental variability jointly shape the evolution of species diversity remains a challenging problem in biology. We developed an individual-based model of clade diversification to predict macroevolutionary dynamics when resource competition, genetic differentiation, and landscape fluctuations interact. Diversification begins with a phase of geographic adaptive radiation. Extinction rates rise sharply at the onset of the next phase. In this phase of niche self-structuring, speciation and extinctionprocesses, albeit driven by biotic mechanisms (competition and hybridization), have essentially constant rates, determined primarily by the abiotic pace of landscape dynamics. The final phase of diversification begins when intense competition prevents dispersing individuals from establishing new populations. Species’ ranges shrink, causing negative diversity-dependence of speciation rates. These results show how ecological and microevolutionary processes shape macroevolutionary dynamics and rates; they caution against the notion of ecological limits to diversity, and suggest new directions for the phylogenetic analysis of diversification.
François-Michel Le Tourneau, GeoJournal August 2018 Vol. 82 n° 4 p. 803–817
More than half of the US rural population lives inside metro or micropolitan areas and even at more disaggregated scales, such as the census tracts, most spatial units mix rural and urban population. At a national scale, only 30% of the country are inhabited by 100% urban or 100% rural population, implying that more than two third of the US territory are somewhere in between both situations. As the rural/urban dichotomy appears today to be blurred by the emergence of new phenomena like rurbanization or exurbanization, our perception of rural America may be somewhat twisted and the reality of rural areas underplayed. This paper focuses on using finer-grade spatial units such as the census blocks and block groups, in order to provide new elements about the extension, localization and characteristics of rural America as well as about its inner dynamics. To that end, we analyze and process geographical and social data at these two levels of information, and use population density as a main factor of analysis. This allows us not only to propose new measurement of the extent of rural space in the USA but also to propose a new vision of its spatial dynamics by studying how several social indicators such as income, median age or sex ratio reveal regional and micro-regional variations and situations in the rural part of the US.
François-Michel Le Tourneau, CNRS Le Journal 2017/11
Le géographe François-Michel Le Tourneau a mené trois missions dans la forêt guyanaise, au côté des militaires et gendarmes qui combattent l'orpaillage illégal. Mais rien ne semble dissuader les chercheurs d'or brésiliens, ou garimpeiros, d'abandonner leur lucrative activité...
Claude Le Gouill, Critique Internationale 2017/4 N° 77
The article draws upon the natural resources management model developed by economist Elinor Ostrom to examine the Constancia (Peru) mining project. It's a study of local communities’ capacity for decentralized and adaptive management within the new rhetoric of sustainable mining advanced by the companies. In what ways does this new mode of regulation allow local communities to provide for their self-organization? Do they have any influence in the very hierarchical power relations characteristic of the mining context? At issue is their ability to maintain sovereignty over their territories and manage the “Common-Pool Resources”. By taking into account the mediating role played by new professionals in the participatory process institutionalized by the state, the Peruvian legal framework offers a relevant example for analyzing the relationships of these communities with the mining companies.
Anne-Lise Boyer, Claude Le Gouill, Franck Poupeau, Lala Razafimahefa, Participations 2017/3 N° 19 p. 189-217
The study focuses on the public participation process that was implemented in the United States by the National Environmental Protection Act. It analyzes the stakeholders’ discourses, which were produced within institutional forums of participation in the case of the Rosemont mine proposal. Our results show that this kind of public participation reaches a socio-economically large and diverse public. However, the public is strongly controlled by interest groups, therefore the participation process can be defined in terms of “quantity” rather than “quality.” This article reveals that analyzing public participation helps to assess environmental controversies.
François-Michel Le Tourneau, Hélène Harter, Jean-Michel Lacroix et Paul-Henri Giraud (coord.), Institut des Amériques 2016
Présenter l’américanisme universitaire en France est une gageure tant cette tradition intellectuelle s’est diffusée dans le paysage des universités et centres de recherches. Marginale à son origine, ayant eu du mal à se frayer un chemin, elle est aujourd’hui une composante reconnue dans de nombreux centres de recherche, insérée dans les disciplines les plus diverses. Mais qu’est-ce que l’américanisme et peut-on y voir la moindre trace d’une unité qui justifierait l’emploi d’un seul substantif alors que le continent américain est éminemment pluriel ?
Le blog de François-Michel Le Tourneau, géographe et Directeur adjoint CNRS de l'UMI iGlobes