Elizabeth Sizer ’18

Project TitlePhysical Fences and Social Boundaries: The Human Implications of Privatizing Nature in Patagonia Park
Mentor – Jennifer Mokos

Patagonia Park has undergone a huge shift in the last decade. Monetary investments made by American entrepreneurs, Doug and Kris Tompkins, have transformed the property from the fenced-in cattle ranch that stood for over a century into an international ecotourism destination with remarkable and inspiring landscapes. In January 2017, I traveled to Patagonia Park to explore my curiosity about this transformation and to learn more about the park's purpose and its impact on the local communities. Although its founders and followers forged the park’s vision with good intentions, my research suggests that there are clear social implications related to the creation of the park. The fences might have been taken down physically, but new ones were put up socially. Critical geographers have argued that park spaces frequently operate as separate entities that have a fixed, rather than fluid, socio-spatial and socio-economic relationship with surrounding areas. Patagonia Park aligns with this scholarship in three ways: (1) in the park’s design, (2) in how local ideals of nature conflict with those of the park’s staff and supporters, and most importantly, (3) in the varied ways that the park and its mission are experienced and perceived. This poster displays how environmental actions can have social implications by revealing the cultural politics that private conservation parks can forge to accommodate certain identities and reproduce inequality.