Culture


Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Global Environmental Change
Erik Gómez-Baggethun, Esteve Corbera, and Victoria Reyes-García (guest eds)
Ecology and Society special feature 18(4), 2013

This special feature of Ecology and Society addresses two main research themes. The first one concerns the resilience of traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) and the conditions that might explain its loss or persistence in the face of global change. The second theme relates to new findings regarding the way in which TEK strengthens community resilience to respond to the multiple stressors of global environmental change. Those themes are analyzed using case studies from Africa, Asia, America and Europe. Theoretical insights and empirical findings from the studies suggest that despite the generalized worldwide trend of TEK erosion, substantial pockets of TEK persist in both developing and developed countries. A common trend on the studies presented is hybridization, where traditional knowledge, practices, and beliefs are merged with novel forms of knowledge and technologies to create new knowledge systems. The findings also reinforce previous hypotheses pointing at the importance of TEK systems as reservoirs of experiential knowledge that can provide important insights for the design of adaptation and mitigation strategies to cope with global environmental change. Based on the results from papers in this feature, the guest editorial also discusses policy directions that might help to promote maintenance and restoration of living TEK systems as sources of social-ecological resilience. Read the issue [open access] …

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Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants
Robin Wall Kimmerer
Milkweed Editions, 2013 | ISBN: 978-1-57131-335-5

Drawing on her life as an indigenous scientist and mother, Kimmerer shows how other living beings—asters and goldenrod, strawberries and squash, salamanders, algae, and sweetgrass—offer us gifts and lessons, even if we’ve forgotten how to hear their voices. In a rich braid of reflections that range from the creation of Turtle Island to the forces that threaten its flourishing today, she circles toward a central argument: that the awakening of a wider ecological consciousness requires the acknowledgement and celebration of our reciprocal relationship with the rest of the living world. Further information …

Practical Workshop for Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities on Intellectual Property and Traditional Knowledge
4-6 December 2013 (Geneva, Switzerland)

The programme of this workshop comprised a set of presentations and case-studies, and encouraged interactive engagement among 14 participants regarding intellectual property and traditional knowledge, and the concerns and aspirations of indigenous peoples and local communities. It was moderated by Professor Rebecca Tsosie (Arizona State University, USA), who is of Yaqui descent. Further information … Download the workshop’s programme [pdf] …

World Heritage no. 69: Agricultural landscapes
UNESCO World Heritage Centre, October 2013

Agricultural landscapes are a testimony to humanity’s long interaction with the land, often unique examples of people and nature co-existing and influencing each other. They demonstrate a rich cultural and landscape diversity, sustainable land-use systems and in some cases people’s daily struggle for survival under extreme climatic and environmental conditions. The 19th-century coffee plantations in Cuba; Stari Grad Plain in Croatia, where grapes and olives have been harvested since ancient Greek times; Konso Cultural Landscape in Ethiopia, where fortified settlements embody a living cultural tradition stretching back twenty-one generations and adapted to a harsh environment; and the subak water management system in Bali (Indonesia), where the spiritual, human and natural worlds are brought together in a philosophy that has shaped the landscape while ensuring prolific rice production – all of these are exceptional examples of an enduring and harmonious interaction. The issue also presents the new World Heritage sites inscribed during the 37th session of the World Heritage Committee, Phnom Penh (Cambodia) in June 2013. Read the issue …

Indigenous peoples’ rights to lands, territories, and resources
Birgitte Feiring, International Land Coalition, 2013 | ISBN: 978-92-95093-90-4

Published as a contribution to the debate towards the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, this study assesses the global and regional instruments, mechanisms and initiatives in regard to indigenous rights to lands, territories and resources. It contains a review of regional situations of indigenous people in Asia, Africa and Latin America, showing how the situation of indigenous peoples varies across regions and countries; and also offers an analysis on how indigenous peoples’ land rights are related to three key thematic areas: women’s rights and access to land and resources; community conserved areas; and climate change and REDD+.

The study concludes with a summary of key trends and challenges, including the non-recognition of tenure rights, and further identifies key opportunities, including strong or emerging indigenous peoples’ organizations, and progressive legislation and policy developments. The study confirms what was suspected: indigenous peoples entertain special relationships with their lands, territories and resources, as these are central to their world view, their cultures, livelihoods, spirituality, identity, and their continued existence as distinct peoples. Read the ILC press release … Download the study [pdf] …

International polar bear conservation will include Inuit knowledge
Nunatsiaq Online, 9 December 2013

NUNAVUT, CANADA: Canada, the US, Russia, Norway and Denmark, meeting from 4-6 December 2013 in Moscow, agreed to include traditional ecological knowledge from indigenous Arctic peoples in polar bear management decisions under the 1973 International Agreement on the Conservation of Polar Bears. The group completed their meeting with a joint declaration that lists several points of agreement on polar bear conservation and management. Listed among them are a recognition of “the importance of traditional ecological knowledge in informing management decisions,” and “the need for the range states to develop a common understanding” of what traditional ecological knowledge is. Read the article …

Peru to chair the 9th session of the Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Heritage
UNESCO release, 7 December 2013

BAKU, AZERBAIJAN: The 8th annual meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguard of Intangible Heritage, marked by the 10th anniversary of UNESCO’s Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Heritage, ended in Baku today with the election of José Manuel Rodríguez Cuadros, Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of Peru to UNESCO, as chair of the next session. The 9th session will take place in Paris, France, from 24 to 28 November 2014. During the meeting, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Culture, Francesco Bandarin and Lassana Cissé, Mali’s National Director for Cultural Heritage, signed an agreement whereby Mali will receive $307,307 in emergency assistance from the Intangible Heritage Fund for the compilation of an inventory of its intangible cultural heritage. The project involves taking stock of intangible cultural heritage—knowledge and practices concerning nature, oral traditions, rituals and festivals, traditional crafts etc.—over the entire country. Four elements were inscribed on the List Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding, which helps States Parties mobilize international cooperation and assistance to ensure the transmission of this heritage with the participation of the concerned communities. The Committee also inscribed 25 elements on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, which serves to raise awareness of intangible heritage and provide recognition to communities’ traditions and know-how that reflect their cultural diversity. Read the release …

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