Nature and Culture

  • Nature and Culture book coverPublisher: Earthscan
  • First published: 2010
  • ISBN: 978-1844078219

There is a common recognition that the diversity of life comprises both biological and cultural diversity. Nevertheless, the division commonly made between nature and culture is not universal, and, in many cases, has been deepened by our need to control or manage nature. A wide variety of environmental sub-disciplines have emerged to address this division, and some of these help to explore bridges between the natural and social sciences. But although many have the potential to contribute to our understanding, they remain somewhat fragmented. In this book, we go beyond divisive definitions and investigate the bridges linking biological and cultural diversity. We also seek to determine the common drivers of loss that exist. In doing so, we suggest that policy responses should target both biological and cultural diversity in a novel integrative approach to conservation, thus reducing the gap between science, policy and practice. The degree to which ecosystem diversity is linked to cultural diversity is only beginning to be understood, and there is a great deal yet to learn. But it is precisely as our knowledge is advancing that these cultures are receding. While conserving nature alongside human cultures presents unique challenges, any hope for saving biological diversity, is predicated on a concomitant effort to appreciate and protect cultural diversity.



“This richly textured book tells vitally important stories about how indigenous cultures are closely tied to the ecosystems they inhabit. As their societies are harassed by encroaching and usually hostile forces, those close links are being stretched and broken. Quite apart from their right to continue to live as they choose, there is much we can learn from them about how to live in harmony with nature. Indeed, our very existence may depend upon our recognizing this.”
Robin Hanbury-Tenison OBE, President Survival International

“People have been considered separate from nature for far too long, and this book provides a welcome antidote. With a group of experienced contributors, it provides a kaleidoscope of the unity of people with the rest of nature. These perspectives have immediate application for anyone seeking a more sustainable future for both biological and cultural diversity, which this book shows to be part of the same unity.”
Dr Jeffrey A. McNeely, Senior Science Advisor, IUCN

“This fascinating, insightful book brings together an array of distinguished scholars highlighting the inter-connectedness of humans and nature which underpins social, ecological and cultural resilience in the face of current global crises. An outstanding and original contribution to sustainability science.”
Professor Katrina Brown, School of International Development, University of East Anglia

“Nature and Culture is an inspiring and deeply informative collection that probes nature/culture interconnections in fascinating international cases. It revitalizes and refines our commitment to a new paradigm for human relations with the earth. A gem of a book.”
Professor Peggy F. Barlett, Goodrich C. White Professor of Anthropology, Emory University

“This collection provides a glimpse of paradise re-gained, when our mis-judged separation from and ambition to master Nature can be repaired. If we are to survive and prosper in the decades to come, we must knit ourselves back into the web of life, recognising the resilience which stems from investing in diverse social, dietary and eco-systems.”
Dr Camilla Toulmin, Director, International Institute for Environment and Development

“Nature and Culture moves beyond dichotomies and boundaries, bringing together philosophical, linguistic, socio-cultural, biological, and agricultural livelihood perspectives to document the inextricable co-evolution of ecosystems and cultures. Whether it is through the sacred cosmologies that shape and maintain mosaic landscapes, or the food cultures that promote health and sustainable diets, or the languages that encode our diverse interactions with nature, the authors provide pathways to reconnect people with ecosystems to ensure their resilience and prospects for improving human welfare. This book belongs on the desk of all concerned with improving the ways we manage our social and ecological systems to sustain life.”
Dr Pablo B. Eyzaguirre, Senior Scientist, Bioversity International