Conservation and Sustainable Use of the Biosphere - WBGU

Conservation and Sustainable Use of the Biosphere - WBGU

Conserving natural and cultural heritage E 3.5


clusion that different lifestyles are needed if this

planet is to continue to function as a habitat for man.

Life in a completely man-made world founded on

concrete and asphalt is most definitely not sustainable

because it is a world which relies on resources

produced elsewhere and imported to meet its needs.

The fact that modern man is forced to think about

nature more than ever (Seel et al, 1993; Meinberg,

1995) is a feature of culture. Just as nature can be

characterized as a construction of indigenous communities

through the indissoluble relationship

between empirical knowledge and spiritual belief

systems, the construction of nature has also changed

among industrialized peoples.Today’s understanding

goes beyond nature as boundless and self-regulating,

the cradle of the elemental and the familiar, but also

the frightening and the terrible (Section E 3.1); today

the discourse is dominated by nature as under threat,

in need of protection or at least ‘management’. The

relationship between biological diversity (and diversity

in jeopardy) and cultural diversity is also

reflected in those conceptualizations of nature and in

discourses that are increasingly taking their place on

the agenda – and not just in the context of environmental

education. The call for a ‘biospheric perspective’

(Section E 3.1), the search for new conceptions

of human nature (Meinberg, 1995) or new lifestyles

(BUND and Misereor, 1997; UBA, 1997b; Enquete

Commission, 1998) are examples of such efforts

towards a new ‘culture’ that reassigns greater importance

to nature. Such concepts have to enter into

socialization and education processes as part of ‘education

for sustainable development’ (BLK, 1998; Section

I 2.5). Furthermore, greater efforts should be

made to carry out empirical research on the issues

relating to lifestyles and conceptions of human

nature; to enhance the synergies, it is essential that

this should be transdisciplinary.

If awareness of the interdependence of nature and

culture, biodiversity and cultural diversity has largely

been lost in modern industrialized societies, by contrast

the example of indigenous communities has

highlighted this interdependence, which is obviously

not limited to these narrowly defined groups. After

all, beyond these indigenous communities there are

many other local communities all over the world who

have developed patterns of cultural diversity in historical

continuity, layer by layer as it were, under conditions

of great geographical, biological, social, linguistic

and behavioural variability and by means of

countless adaptation processes. These patterns are

known today and manifest themselves in multifaceted

knowledge systems and ways of treating the

natural environment but also in extremely variable

ethical, philosophical, religious or mythical interpretations

of the relationship between man and nature.

Cultural conservation is therefore a condition of

success for environmental protection. At the same

time global environmental protection is inconceivable

without cultural change. A successful biosphere

policy must be geared to both. It must try to

strengthen the ability of society to cope with global

change by preserving cultural diversity. At the same

time, cultures have to face up to the necessary

changes, especially with regard to non-sustainable

lifestyles and patterns of consumption. Conversely,

cultural diversity and, thus, the survival of many societies

is at risk when the ground is pulled from under

its feet through environmental destruction. These

aspects are addressed in the CBD; however, they can

only be implemented locally through the inclusion of

the actors concerned and affected. The Council

therefore calls for reinforcement of learning and

educational processes to convey clearly the special

features of the learners’ own environment and its cultural

use. Starting with the principle that biological

and cultural diversity are interdependent, it can be


• Protection of nature and its biological diversity as

the foundation of life is in man’s interest because

he is a natural and cultural being and cultural

diversity builds upon biological diversity.

• The protection of cultural diversity is required

because humans as a part of the biosphere must

not be reduced to mere biological entities, but

must be fully included as cultural beings. However,

protection must not be understood as a

licence to preserve all values and practices – eg if

these infringe human rights.

• Furthermore, the protection of cultural diversity is

a guarantor and instrument of the conservation of

biological diversity, especially in the bioregions

where local and indigenous communities have

successfully conserved this diversity.

• Which measures must be taken to ensure the continued

existence and development of these communities,

taking account of their right to selfdetermination

in the face of further globalization?

• Which specific cultivation, harvesting and hunting

methods of indigenous peoples can offer models,

even if not fully transferable, to stimulate ‘culturesensitive

development strategies’ and sustainable

management practices when adapted to the contexts


• Going beyond the indigenous knowledge systems

and practices – how important are traditional,

mainly village-based knowledge structures, values

and ways of managing natural resources for the

sustainable conservation and use of biological


Clarification of the individual factors of interdependence

between cultural and biological diversity is a

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