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Reinterpreting change in traditional ecological knowledge

2013, HUMAN ECOLOGY - número/volum 41 - ISSN: 0300-7839 - Pàgines 643-647 - DOI 10.1007/s10745-013-9577-9

Autors de l'ICTA:
Erik N. Gómez-Baggethun, Victoria Reyes-García

Tots els autors:
Erik Gómez-Baggethun and Victoria Reyes-García

Much of the previous research on Traditional Ecological Knowledge (herefater TEK) has centred in 1) documenting fading knowledge (eg. Ferguson and Messier 1997; Pieroni et al. 2004), 2) understanding the parallel decrease of biological and cultural diversity (Maffi 2005; Harmon and Loh 2010), and 3) assessing the processes and drivers of change that lead to the loss of TEK (Benz et al. 2000; Kingsbury 2001; Godoy et al. 2005; Gray et al. 2008; Turner and Turner 2008). The general argumentative line in those works revolves around lamenting the loss of TEK as indigenous peoples and rural communities modernize and adopt western lifestyles. For example, in the last decade a growing number of studies have reported changes and losses in the medicinal (Begossi et al. 2002; Case et al. 2005; Lozada et al. 2006; Monteiro et al. 2006), nutritional (Turner and Turner 2008), and agricultural (Benz et al. 2007; Stone 2007; Gómez-Baggethun et al. 2010) knowledge of small-scale societies as they become more integrated in national societies and the market economy.
The idea that TEK systems are capable of adapting both to external changes and internal frictions has been a mainstay of human ecology for some time (e.g. Berkes et al. 2000). Yet, by analyzing change primarily in terms of lost knowledge, the usual research perspective tends to downplay the dynamic nature of TEK systems, and little emphasis is put in understanding particular changes in TEK as an adaptive response to new environmental, social, or economic conditions. Likewise, few researchers have examined how the culprits of the loss of TEK (i.e., modernization, technology, schooling, or integration into the market economy to name the most commonly mentioned factors) actually affect the mechanisms that allow societies to generate, regenerate, transmit, and apply knowledge. In other words, our understanding of how these processes affect the resilience of TEK systems and their capacity to evolve and adapt is still limited.
In this paper, we shift the focus from the analysis of trends in specific bodies of TEK, to the analysis of the factors and conditions that maintain or undermine people’s ability to adapt and regenerate TEK in the face of changing environmental and socio-economic conditions. In doing so, we advance our understanding on how factors underlying the loss of TEK affect the mechanisms used by societies to regenerate and transmit such knowledge in the face of global environmental change.


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