Conserving natural heritage: shifting positions of culture and nature

Smith, Darrell J., Convery, Ian, Ramsey, Andrew D. and Kouloumpis, Viktor (2016) Conserving natural heritage: shifting positions of culture and nature. In: Convery, Ian and Davis, Peter, (eds.) Changing perceptions of nature. Heritage Matters, 18 . Boydell & Brewer, Woodbridge, UK, pp. 27-36. Item availability may be restricted.

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Abstract

In this chapter we give an overview of the changing social perceptions of society's relationship with natural resources. We begin in a medieval setting, and while this is essentially an arbitrary starting point, it does highlight the long-held belief in an external influence being responsible for the creation and maintenance of all elements of the natural world. At that point in time, religious thought viewed society as external to a non-human natural world; a position of theism was maintained. In contrast, this review ends at a time of an increasingly secular and utilitarian society, a time in which the dominant view of the natural world is communicated using the economic language of commodification and monetisation. The process of social change is presented as discrete and simplistic steps; however, history does not exist as a series of themed events conveniently grouped in time and space. With thoughts of the natural world in mind, boundaries between paradigms should be seen as fuzzy, permeable and overlapping, similar to the idea of a social [eco]tone. Landscape, when described as a time and place in which we live, can be seen as the contingent and historically variable result of an interconnected relationship between socio-economic and bio-physical forces. The landscape of our natural heritage is both shaped and defined by culture and its relationship with nature. This position reflects a respect for the capacity of nature to reproduce the Earth's life-support systems. In this sense the ethical perspective is holistic; culture and nature occupy the same space. Nature is seen as a necessity for the existence of human culture, where all human understanding, experiences and activities are played out in the same biophysical processes as are the activities of all other organisms. We compare the varied temporal, linear views of nature to explore the raltionships between nature and culture. This approach sees society's relationship with the natural world move from an Aristotelian teleological position, where religious thought views society as external to a nonhuman natural world (Hamilton 2002), to the placing of a secular society firmly within a socialecological system (Pickett et al 2005). Here society occupies a place within the natural world, a reflexive component of a complex adaptive social-ecological system (ibid).

Item Type: Book Section
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
ISBN: 9781783271054
Departments: Forestry and Conservation
Additional Information: Chapter 3 within book. Extract of chapter made open access on Insight with kind permission from Boydell & Brewer publishers.
Depositing User: Anna Lupton
Date Deposited: 04 Apr 2017 09:28
Last Modified: 17 Sep 2018 09:47
URI: http://insight.cumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/2810

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