Monthly Archives: March 2010

Caring for Country: An Australian Approach to Indigenous Land Management

The Tanami track is a rough, corrugated ‘bush highway’ that cuts across the Central Australian desert from Alice Springs northwest to Halls Creek in the Kimberley. While an important artery serving Aboriginal communities and mining operations, this route traverses one of the more remote and unforgiving regions of the country, offering few amenities to the

Tales of Biocultural Diversity

Petul and I had just finished recording a Tzeltal Maya elder, Don Antonio, who was telling us some of the old stories about people, plants, places, and spirits. The man had been talking for hours, showing no sign of getting tired, in spite of his age. Petul and I, instead, were exhausted. As we sat back, taking a rest, I asked him—my invaluable collaborator through two years of doctoral fieldwork in the highlands of Chiapas, Mexico, in the early 1990s: “Well, Petul, I guess this is what you folks normally do at night, sit around with the elders telling stories?” From the puzzled look on Petul’s face, I figured that something wasn’t exactly as I had imagined. “Huh—said Petul after a moment of reflection—actually, that was the way it used to be… But now, you see, the kids are going to school, and when they come back at the end of the day (if the school is close enough that they can come back daily at all), they have homework to do. So that’s what happens at night: they sit at the table under the light bulb and do the homework. Some of the people, also, now have TV, so they sit around and watch TV at night. We don’t spend that much time visiting one another and listening to stories anymore. The kids often think that the old stories are weird, anyway, because of what they learn at school, or see on TV…”

Maya Jiro Mithe

A folk tale from the Great Andamanese tribe that explains why birds are conserved in the Andaman Islands. The last speaker of the Bo language, the late Boa Sr., who died in February 2010, was seen talking to birds, as she believed that birds of Andaman understood her language. This is a story of a boy who belonged to the Jero tribe and lived near the seashore.

Filling the Gaps in Biocultural Diversity Conservation

What do we need to do to further promote biocultural diversity conservation? Since the existence of an “inextricable link” between cultural and biological diversity was affirmed in the pioneering 1988 Declaration of Belém, the field of biocultural diversity (BCD) has grown organically out of a variety of sources in the natural, social, and behavioral sciences,

Conserving Biocultural Diversity: Approaches and Conditions

How do we conserve biocultural diversity? It may sound like stating the obvious, but it is worth reminding ourselves at the outset that the best way to “conserve” the diversity of life is to make sure that it does not get depleted in the first place—that is, that it continues to thrive when it is

Walking our Talk: Creating a Community of Practice

Throughout the world, biocultural diversity continues to decline, despite the growing recognition of its vital importance for the future of humanity and of all life on earth. The many on-the-ground efforts that are taking place worldwide to support and restore biocultural diversity are forging a new, integrated path toward sustainability. However, by and large these

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