Science, Traditional Knowledge and Sustainable Development

ICSU Series on Science for Sustainable Development No. 4

In addressing the goals of sustainable development, the role of science is crucial; scientific knowledge and appropriate technologies are central to resolving the economic, social and environmental problems that make current development paths unsustainable. However, science does not constitute the only form of knowledge, and closer links need to be established between science and other forms and systems of knowledge in addressing sustainable development issues and problems at the local level such as natural resources management and biodiversity conservation.

Traditional societies, usually with strong cultural roots, have nurtured and refined systems of knowledge of their own, relating to such diverse domains as astronomy, meteorology, geology, ecology, botany, agriculture, physiology, psychology and health. Such knowledge systems represent an enormous wealth. Not only do they represent other approaches of the acquisition and construction of knowledge and harbour information often as yet unknown to science, but they are also expressions of other relationships between society and nature in general and of sustainable ways of managing natural resources in particular.

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