Sacred Ecology: Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Resource Management
Author: Fikret Berkes
Release Date: February 01, 1999
Ecology has always had its roots in conventional science, with an emphasis on the quantitative aspects of assessment and use. However, since the 1980s, the field has broadened to encompass a more holistic vision of the earth as a system of interconnected relationships. A major issue today is how humans can develop a more acceptable relationship with the environment that supports them. With this comes a renewed interest in the traditional ecological knowledge of indigenous peoples as a source of valuable information on how to best utilize and respect our natural resources.Growing interest in traditional ecological knowledge is perhaps indicative of two things: the need for ecological insights from indigenous practices of resource use, and the need to develop a new ecological ethic in part by learning from the wisdom of traditional knowledge holders. This book explores both of these ideas together specifically in the context of natural resource management. It discusses the importance of traditional knowledge for complementing scientific ecology, and its cultural and political significance for indigenous groups themselves.
Dr Berkes approaches traditional ecological knowledge as a knowledge-practice-belief complex. This complex considers four interrelated levels: local knowledge (species specific); resource management systems (integrating local knowledge with practice); social institutions (rules and codes of behavior); and world view (religion, ethics, and broadly defined belief systems). Divided into three parts that deal with concepts, practice, and issues, respectively, the book first discusses the emergence of the field, its intellectual roots and global significance. Substantivematerial is then included on how traditional ecological and management systems actually work. At the same time it explores a diversity of relationships that different groups have developed with their environment, using extensive case studies from research conducted with the Cree Indians of James Bay, in the eastern subarctic of North America. The final section examines traditional knowledge as a challenge to the positivist-reductionist paradigm in Western science, and concludes with a discussion of the potential of traditional ecological knowledge to inject a measure of ethics into the science of ecology and resource management.