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MEDITERRANEAN LANDSCAPES, Guest Editors: Stefan Schindler and Linda Olsvig-Whittaker

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Journal Details
Format
Journal
eISSN
1805-4196
ISSN
1805-4196
First Published
20 Jun 2008
Publication timeframe
3 times per year
Languages
English

Search

Volume 5 (2012): Issue 2 (November 2012)

Journal Details
Format
Journal
eISSN
1805-4196
ISSN
1805-4196
First Published
20 Jun 2008
Publication timeframe
3 times per year
Languages
English

Search

6 Articles
Open Access

Cultural Ecology: Contemporary Understanding of the Relationship between Humans and the Environment

Published Online: 23 Nov 2012
Page range: 12 - 24

Abstract

ABSTRACT

The paper explains the concept of contemporary cultural ecology, a scientific approach reflecting the relationship between human society and natural environment. This approach is used by the scholars of Faculty of Arts at Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic. Special attention is paid to the links between cultural ecology and landscape ecology, interdisciplinary study of biophysical as well as societal driven processes and patterns in landscapes.

We present important disciplines of social sciences that focused on the relationship of humans and environment, and which inspired our concept of cultural ecology. The first human ecology appears in the 1920’s in Chicago. Human ecology of Robert E. Park and his colleagues was mostly aimed at urban sociology. A totally different approach is represented by cultural ecology of Julian Steward, who created it as an anthropological sub-discipline stressing the adaptive function of culture. Social ecology of Murray Bookchin brought more philosophy and social activism into the discussion. In the 1970’s human ecology presented by Gerald Young and environmental sociology of William Catton and Riley Dunlap got environmental factors back to the studies of modern complex societies.

Apart from the sources of inspiration mainly from the US, we also briefly summarize Czech disciplines and scholars investigating the human-nature relationship, e.g. social ecology of Bohuslav Blažek, concentrating mostly on rural areas or the sociological approach towards environmental problems of Jan Keller.

Furthermore, four constitutive principles of today’s cultural ecology are discussed. These include: 1) focus on the problems of present times instead of escapes into the past or the future, 2) integrative approach which is aware of the pitfalls of inter- or transdisciplinarity, 3) cultural core of society-environment relationships, i.e. reflection on the societyenvironment relationship through culture, and 4) dialogue between human (society) and environment (nature).

Finally, the landscape as an object of study of cultural ecology is briefly discussed. We conclude that cultural ecology is a broad approach, stimulating discussions among various academics rather than a well-defined rigorous scientific discipline. We believe this to be the benefit of cultural ecology, which can foster illuminating discussions about important environmental issues.

Keywords

  • cultural ecology
  • landscape ecology
  • environment
  • social sciences
  • transdisciplinarity
Open Access

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: on the Politics of Sustainability in the U.S.

Published Online: 23 Nov 2012
Page range: 25 - 36

Abstract

ABSTRACT

With the UN Conference on Sustainable Development occurring in 2012, this essay asks whether or not changes towards sustainability can be documented over the past twenty years and, if not, to ask why not, and what might be necessary to better ensure that movement towards sustainability characterizes the next twenty years.

Looking at the performance of the United States, it finds that measures of all major dimensions of sustainability-environment, social equity, and economic viability-reveal little progress towards sustainability. In trying to explain this lack of progress, our claim is that the “problem” of sustainability is not primarily technical or scientific, but rather it is political, and the real problem is that of power. In the US in recent years, anti-sustainability movements have captured national politics by removing sustainability from the national dialogue and from the agenda of public decision-making, and through the process of decentralization of decision-making to more local contexts where they may more easily control direct conflicts in decision.

Why are Americans sanguine about issues of sustainability? The essay examines three core beliefs that dominate American perceptions: (1) problems associated with lack of sustainability can and will be managed by simple economic growth, (2) whatever scarcities and problems we face down the road will be cured by advances in science and technology, and (3) fairness is more important than equality.

The concluding section calls for adoption of a “deep sustainability” paradigm versus the kind of “shallow sustainability” that characterizes the majority of policy and programs today labeled as sustainable. Borrowing the ecosophic concept of “deep ecology” from Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess, the guiding principle of a deep sustainability is one of equality, equality first of all among environmental, economic, and social objectives, and then social equity within each of these dimensions. Sustainability cannot be achieved under systems that have as their basic assumption the roles of winners and losers, rich and poor, haves and have-nots. If Rio+20 offers only solutions within the existing powerful paradigm of market-driven solutions, then the “green economy” will mean more commodification of food and water, land and biodiversity. It will mean that we have fallen further behind in our quest for sustainability.

Keywords

  • sustainability
  • sustainable development
  • political ecology
  • politics of nature
  • environmental policy
Open Access

Transition Area Bouzovsko?

Published Online: 23 Nov 2012
Page range: 37 - 53

Abstract

ABSTRACT

During January 2009 millions of Eastern Europeans discovered how precarious their modern lifestyles were, when suddenly a dispute between a private corporation and a foreign state shut off the supply of gas. What would happen in the event of serious unrest in the oil production hubs of the world? Or simply; if the fuels we have become so dependent on, once again hit the price levels of the summer of 2008 …or higher…and stayed?

In particular: What would happen to the specific Czech rural area of Bouzovsko, if suddenly -or during a 15 year time span- a drastic shortage of fossil fuels occurred? Would it be possible to gradually implement a sustainable ‘bottom-up’ plan of resilience towards such as situation?

This paper argues the potential of introducing ‘The 12 steps of Transition’ to Bouzovsko, in accordance with ‘The Transition Handbook’. Such steps include elements of landscape ecology, environmental management, renewable energy planning, along with enhancing the social infrastructure of the area, and securing local economy. The ‘transition movement’ is rapidly spreading across the world as it aims to prepare for such a possibility, through a communal based positive gradual energy descent. It is designed as a participatory response to the Peak Oil phenomena.

The research brought forth the conclusion that it is unlikely to implement the Transition approach in socially/culturally less favorable areas; that the parameter which prevents this is the lack of a popular understanding (by the local population) that there is no other way possible, and finally that the best way to ensure any resilience is to follow the model of the ‘Shock Doctrine’: A small group of citizens unite to create a specialized plan for transition to a minimal fossil fuel dependence in the future, and have the plan available for implementation when the time is right.

Keywords

  • Sustainable rural development
  • resilience
  • post-peak development
  • transition movement,
Open Access

Characteristic of the Czech Countryside Development Based on Local Population Activities and Attitudes

Published Online: 23 Nov 2012
Page range: 54 - 71

Abstract

ABSTRACT

Our paper tested the role of local population in development of rural municipalities. We focused especially on attitudes and general characteristics of people and tried to answer the question to which extent is the success of village development connected with the kind of people living there. In other words, determining the role of cultural and social capital in rural development. Presented results are based on work carried out by a research team within the three-year project entitled “Countryside as a Space for Living or just a Space for Surviving”, supported by the Czech Ministry of Agriculture 1 . We analyzed statistical data from a fifteen-year period (1995-2009). From the rural area with more than 6,000 villages that fit to OECD definition, villages from sub-urban zones were excluded, leaving an area with approximately 4,500 villages. We decided that demographic development would serve as a main indicator of village prosperity - the increasing number of population during our analyzed period. Four thousand villages were statistically divided into five groups in terms of growing or decreasing number of population due to a different level of combination of two factors - rate of population growth (crude rate of natural increase) and rate of migration (crude rate of net migration). One thousand respondents, from one hundred villages selected at random, were asked about their life conditions in their village. The results we gained partly confirm our hypothesis that the role of cultural capital is not negligible for determining the type of development.

Keywords

  • Rural development
  • local population
  • cultural and social capital
  • rural area
  • villages
  • municipality
Open Access

A Swamp and a Wetland – Two Faces of Wilderness

Published Online: 23 Nov 2012
Page range: 72 - 83

Abstract

ABSTRACT

This paper presents a case study on the relationship between inhabitants of a South Moravian village and the local swamp/wetland. Two different approaches were identified for this particular locality; one was called “everyday” approach and the second “environmental” approach. The disparity of these approaches is documented in the way the individual participants construct, by means of various symbols and meanings, a symbolic system relating to this locality. Environmental experts speak about the “wetland”, whose dominant purpose is life, and they undertake measures for its protection. On the other hand, from the point of view of the everyday approach, the “swamp” is perceived as wilderness, represented by the myth that death is playing its key role. This approach, based on traditional concepts of mythology, is far removed from the environmental approach, which is based on the sign system of science. This disparity then presents a source of misunderstanding and possible conflicts between the individual parties.

Keywords

  • swamp
  • wetland
  • perception of landscape
  • wilderness
  • environmentalism
  • mythology
Open Access

Reward for Nature Conservation: Tree Kangaroos, Cars and Scientists

Published Online: 23 Nov 2012
Page range: 84 - 96

Abstract

ABSTRACT

The objective of this article is an analysis of ethnohistory of establishment of YUS conservation area in Papua New Guinea. Particular attention is devoted to the natives’ attitudes and expectations toward and from YUS conservation area. The article is based on the research, which the author conducted among the Nungonn ethnic group of the Morobe province. Attitudes and expectations are analyzed and interpreted on the basic survey executed among the Nungonns and via drawings made by the pupils of a local primary school in Yawan. Author argues that the natives dream for the kind of development, which is in a stark contrast to the conservators’ ideas of biodiversity protection.

Keywords

  • Nature Conservation
  • Culture
  • Drawing
6 Articles
Open Access

Cultural Ecology: Contemporary Understanding of the Relationship between Humans and the Environment

Published Online: 23 Nov 2012
Page range: 12 - 24

Abstract

ABSTRACT

The paper explains the concept of contemporary cultural ecology, a scientific approach reflecting the relationship between human society and natural environment. This approach is used by the scholars of Faculty of Arts at Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic. Special attention is paid to the links between cultural ecology and landscape ecology, interdisciplinary study of biophysical as well as societal driven processes and patterns in landscapes.

We present important disciplines of social sciences that focused on the relationship of humans and environment, and which inspired our concept of cultural ecology. The first human ecology appears in the 1920’s in Chicago. Human ecology of Robert E. Park and his colleagues was mostly aimed at urban sociology. A totally different approach is represented by cultural ecology of Julian Steward, who created it as an anthropological sub-discipline stressing the adaptive function of culture. Social ecology of Murray Bookchin brought more philosophy and social activism into the discussion. In the 1970’s human ecology presented by Gerald Young and environmental sociology of William Catton and Riley Dunlap got environmental factors back to the studies of modern complex societies.

Apart from the sources of inspiration mainly from the US, we also briefly summarize Czech disciplines and scholars investigating the human-nature relationship, e.g. social ecology of Bohuslav Blažek, concentrating mostly on rural areas or the sociological approach towards environmental problems of Jan Keller.

Furthermore, four constitutive principles of today’s cultural ecology are discussed. These include: 1) focus on the problems of present times instead of escapes into the past or the future, 2) integrative approach which is aware of the pitfalls of inter- or transdisciplinarity, 3) cultural core of society-environment relationships, i.e. reflection on the societyenvironment relationship through culture, and 4) dialogue between human (society) and environment (nature).

Finally, the landscape as an object of study of cultural ecology is briefly discussed. We conclude that cultural ecology is a broad approach, stimulating discussions among various academics rather than a well-defined rigorous scientific discipline. We believe this to be the benefit of cultural ecology, which can foster illuminating discussions about important environmental issues.

Keywords

  • cultural ecology
  • landscape ecology
  • environment
  • social sciences
  • transdisciplinarity
Open Access

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: on the Politics of Sustainability in the U.S.

Published Online: 23 Nov 2012
Page range: 25 - 36

Abstract

ABSTRACT

With the UN Conference on Sustainable Development occurring in 2012, this essay asks whether or not changes towards sustainability can be documented over the past twenty years and, if not, to ask why not, and what might be necessary to better ensure that movement towards sustainability characterizes the next twenty years.

Looking at the performance of the United States, it finds that measures of all major dimensions of sustainability-environment, social equity, and economic viability-reveal little progress towards sustainability. In trying to explain this lack of progress, our claim is that the “problem” of sustainability is not primarily technical or scientific, but rather it is political, and the real problem is that of power. In the US in recent years, anti-sustainability movements have captured national politics by removing sustainability from the national dialogue and from the agenda of public decision-making, and through the process of decentralization of decision-making to more local contexts where they may more easily control direct conflicts in decision.

Why are Americans sanguine about issues of sustainability? The essay examines three core beliefs that dominate American perceptions: (1) problems associated with lack of sustainability can and will be managed by simple economic growth, (2) whatever scarcities and problems we face down the road will be cured by advances in science and technology, and (3) fairness is more important than equality.

The concluding section calls for adoption of a “deep sustainability” paradigm versus the kind of “shallow sustainability” that characterizes the majority of policy and programs today labeled as sustainable. Borrowing the ecosophic concept of “deep ecology” from Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess, the guiding principle of a deep sustainability is one of equality, equality first of all among environmental, economic, and social objectives, and then social equity within each of these dimensions. Sustainability cannot be achieved under systems that have as their basic assumption the roles of winners and losers, rich and poor, haves and have-nots. If Rio+20 offers only solutions within the existing powerful paradigm of market-driven solutions, then the “green economy” will mean more commodification of food and water, land and biodiversity. It will mean that we have fallen further behind in our quest for sustainability.

Keywords

  • sustainability
  • sustainable development
  • political ecology
  • politics of nature
  • environmental policy
Open Access

Transition Area Bouzovsko?

Published Online: 23 Nov 2012
Page range: 37 - 53

Abstract

ABSTRACT

During January 2009 millions of Eastern Europeans discovered how precarious their modern lifestyles were, when suddenly a dispute between a private corporation and a foreign state shut off the supply of gas. What would happen in the event of serious unrest in the oil production hubs of the world? Or simply; if the fuels we have become so dependent on, once again hit the price levels of the summer of 2008 …or higher…and stayed?

In particular: What would happen to the specific Czech rural area of Bouzovsko, if suddenly -or during a 15 year time span- a drastic shortage of fossil fuels occurred? Would it be possible to gradually implement a sustainable ‘bottom-up’ plan of resilience towards such as situation?

This paper argues the potential of introducing ‘The 12 steps of Transition’ to Bouzovsko, in accordance with ‘The Transition Handbook’. Such steps include elements of landscape ecology, environmental management, renewable energy planning, along with enhancing the social infrastructure of the area, and securing local economy. The ‘transition movement’ is rapidly spreading across the world as it aims to prepare for such a possibility, through a communal based positive gradual energy descent. It is designed as a participatory response to the Peak Oil phenomena.

The research brought forth the conclusion that it is unlikely to implement the Transition approach in socially/culturally less favorable areas; that the parameter which prevents this is the lack of a popular understanding (by the local population) that there is no other way possible, and finally that the best way to ensure any resilience is to follow the model of the ‘Shock Doctrine’: A small group of citizens unite to create a specialized plan for transition to a minimal fossil fuel dependence in the future, and have the plan available for implementation when the time is right.

Keywords

  • Sustainable rural development
  • resilience
  • post-peak development
  • transition movement,
Open Access

Characteristic of the Czech Countryside Development Based on Local Population Activities and Attitudes

Published Online: 23 Nov 2012
Page range: 54 - 71

Abstract

ABSTRACT

Our paper tested the role of local population in development of rural municipalities. We focused especially on attitudes and general characteristics of people and tried to answer the question to which extent is the success of village development connected with the kind of people living there. In other words, determining the role of cultural and social capital in rural development. Presented results are based on work carried out by a research team within the three-year project entitled “Countryside as a Space for Living or just a Space for Surviving”, supported by the Czech Ministry of Agriculture 1 . We analyzed statistical data from a fifteen-year period (1995-2009). From the rural area with more than 6,000 villages that fit to OECD definition, villages from sub-urban zones were excluded, leaving an area with approximately 4,500 villages. We decided that demographic development would serve as a main indicator of village prosperity - the increasing number of population during our analyzed period. Four thousand villages were statistically divided into five groups in terms of growing or decreasing number of population due to a different level of combination of two factors - rate of population growth (crude rate of natural increase) and rate of migration (crude rate of net migration). One thousand respondents, from one hundred villages selected at random, were asked about their life conditions in their village. The results we gained partly confirm our hypothesis that the role of cultural capital is not negligible for determining the type of development.

Keywords

  • Rural development
  • local population
  • cultural and social capital
  • rural area
  • villages
  • municipality
Open Access

A Swamp and a Wetland – Two Faces of Wilderness

Published Online: 23 Nov 2012
Page range: 72 - 83

Abstract

ABSTRACT

This paper presents a case study on the relationship between inhabitants of a South Moravian village and the local swamp/wetland. Two different approaches were identified for this particular locality; one was called “everyday” approach and the second “environmental” approach. The disparity of these approaches is documented in the way the individual participants construct, by means of various symbols and meanings, a symbolic system relating to this locality. Environmental experts speak about the “wetland”, whose dominant purpose is life, and they undertake measures for its protection. On the other hand, from the point of view of the everyday approach, the “swamp” is perceived as wilderness, represented by the myth that death is playing its key role. This approach, based on traditional concepts of mythology, is far removed from the environmental approach, which is based on the sign system of science. This disparity then presents a source of misunderstanding and possible conflicts between the individual parties.

Keywords

  • swamp
  • wetland
  • perception of landscape
  • wilderness
  • environmentalism
  • mythology
Open Access

Reward for Nature Conservation: Tree Kangaroos, Cars and Scientists

Published Online: 23 Nov 2012
Page range: 84 - 96

Abstract

ABSTRACT

The objective of this article is an analysis of ethnohistory of establishment of YUS conservation area in Papua New Guinea. Particular attention is devoted to the natives’ attitudes and expectations toward and from YUS conservation area. The article is based on the research, which the author conducted among the Nungonn ethnic group of the Morobe province. Attitudes and expectations are analyzed and interpreted on the basic survey executed among the Nungonns and via drawings made by the pupils of a local primary school in Yawan. Author argues that the natives dream for the kind of development, which is in a stark contrast to the conservators’ ideas of biodiversity protection.

Keywords

  • Nature Conservation
  • Culture
  • Drawing

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