Culture and Nature: the two sides of the coin

A farmer in Cambodia. Photographer: Riffet, Daniel © UNESCO

Biological and cultural diversity are intrinsically and inextricably linked and together hold the key to sustainable development

                                    From the 2010 Declaration on Bio- cultural Diversity

Cultures are rooted in a time and place. They define how people relate to nature and their physical environment, to the earth and to the cosmos, and they express our attitudes to and beliefs in other forms of life, both animal and plant. Even in our globalized world of cosmopolitan communities, made of transnational people, cultures tend to make roots in and adapt to the particularity of a specific environment and geo-historical context.

This is because, at a fundamental level, biological and cultural diversities are closely interdependent. They have developed over time through mutual adaptation between humans and the environment, and therefore, rather than existing in separate and parallel realms, they interact with and affect one another in complex ways in a sort of co-evolutionary process.

For this reason, traditional and indigenous practices for the stewardship and use of environmental resources, including buildings techniques, are in general green ‘by design’. They embody an intrinsically more sustainable pattern of land use, consumption and production, contributing also to food security and water access, based on knowledge and practices developed over centuries of adaptation.

This suggests that any local policy aiming to protect the natural environment and achieve sustainable development will necessarily also have to take into consideration, and act upon, the culture of the concerned communities.

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