Examining the science of stream restoration, Rebecca Lave argues that the neoliberal emphasis on the privatization and commercialization of knowledge has fundamentally changed the way that science is funded, organized, and viewed in the United States.
Stream restoration science and practice is in a startling state. The most widely respected expert in the field, Dave Rosgen, is a private consultant with relatively little formal scientific training. Since the mid-1990s, many academic and federal agency-based scientists have denounced Rosgen as a charlatan and a hack. Despite this, Rosgen's Natural Channel Design approach, classification system, and short-course series are not only accepted but are viewed as more legitimate than academically produced knowledge and training. Rosgen's methods are now promoted by federal agencies including the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service, as well as by resource agencies in dozens of states.
Drawing on the work of Pierre Bourdieu, Lave demonstrates that the primary cause of Rosgen's success is neither the method nor the man but is instead the assignment of a new legitimacy to scientific claims developed outside the academy, concurrent with academic scientists' decreasing ability to defend their turf. What is at stake in the Rosgen wars, argues Lave, is not just the ecological health of our rivers and streams but the very future of environmental science.
"Fields and Streams is a brilliant and pathbreaking work. Lave's extensively researched and conceptually rich analysis weaves geography, environmental studies, and science studies into an analysis that is intellectually rigorous and practically relevant. It should be read not just by those interested in political ecology, ecological restoration, and water policy but by anyone interested in the complex relationships between environment, economics, science, and politics."
– Jake Kosek, author of Understories: The Political Life of Forests in Northern New Mexico
"Lave's style of writing is engaging, and her book contains powerful, provocative, and highly original findings. There's a lot at stake in this story: how expertise is established and spread, the fate of university science in an era when extramural funding is paramount, the American love affair with all things pragmatic, and ultimately, which streams will flourish and which ones will flood, die, or kill fisheries."
– Julie Guthman, author of Agrarian Dreams: The Paradox of Organic Farming in California
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Rebecca Lave is an assistant professor and the director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Geography at Indiana University.