Resilience of cultural heritage to environmental change


In our new study, we show how the impacts of environmental change cascade into indigenous/local cultural heritage (e.g. env knowledge, connection to ancestors). Considering only the direct impacts of environmental change therefore leads to severe misinterpretation of community resilience. Moreover, we illustrate in detail the roles that environmental elements play in supporting an indigenous culture. In essence, we show that environment and culture can be inseparable. Thus, it’s very important to protect communities’ nature connections!

Several cultural elements that are highly important to indigenous people and local communities are non-materialistic, such as values, beliefs and knowledge. Therefore, it is difficult to “measure”, and then communicate to decision-makers, how cultural heritage may be impacted by environmental or societal changes. Yet, erosion of cultural heritage leads to decreased well-being in the affected communities and degradation of humanity’s cultural heritage. Furthermore, the cultural heritage of indigenous peoples and local communities commonly includes essential know-how for sustainably living with the local environment. However, estimating the resilience of cultural heritage to environmental change (or policies restricting people access to local environmental elements) have proven to be a complex task.

In this study, we show in detail how loss of access to local environmental elements can have critical, cascading impacts on indigenous cultures (in addition to severe direct impacts).  Our results show how considering only direct effects of environmental change on cultural heritage can lead to severe underestimations of the seriousness of environmental impacts on IPLC cultureFurthermore, the result of this study demonstrate that the ability of many IPLC to sustainably live in close contact with the environment is strongly supported by constant interaction with nature.

By illustrating in detail a variety of cultural values that an indigenous tribe associate with their local environment, we provide a rich understanding on the multiple ways that an indigenous culture and environment are connected. We do this by using a novel approach that maps patterns formed by connections between IPLC culture and environment, which, we suggest, can be used as a scientific tool to communicate to decision-makers the dependence of a culture on environment. In so doing, we hope to contribute to strengthening the position of indigenous peoples and local communities to communicate how the vitality of their culture and ability to safeguard biodiversity relies on access to, and rights to govern, their local ecosystem elements.

Read here

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