Welcome – Haere mai

Welcome to this forum for discussion and debate about cultural perspectives on biodiversity, the topic of a dedicated symposium & workshop in the Biodiversity: 2010 and Beyond Conference (Dunedin NZ,  Nov. 2010)

NEWSFLASH: WE CONTINUE POST-CONFERENCE! Thanks to all that attended the workshop -To see highlights discussion, click on Highlights tab above. PLEASE   everyone –  whether you attended the conference/ symposium / workshop  or  not –   take a minute to answer our survey!  Did this process work or not?

click here for survey

26 Dec 2010:       The blog can now be found by outside search engines.      Continued discussion is welcomed.

PREVIOUS BACKGROUND STATEMENT: Here are listed 8 different topics of discussion proposed by you, the prospective workshop participants. These will be discussed in the open-space workshop on 25 Nov, but for the next weeks we have the opportunity to initiate debate & dialogue in this on-line forum. Please contribute your thoughts by adding comments to any topic. Although we expect robust dialogue, please leave respectable remarks. It may be useful to include cross-reference to specific subjects of talks and posters that will be presented in the Symposium. (Click on the Cross-link tab above to access the abstracts for the Symposium.)

Let the dialogue begin!

Click on a topic to the right to be taken directly to the discussion page, or scroll down below to see the topics listed with their brief background rationale. If you would like to leave a comment on this blog/workshop process, click the Leave Comment link directly below.


Topic 1: How can we achieve biodiversity gains without people being considered as part of the ecosystem?

It is often asserted that indigenous approaches to environmental care differ by considering people to be in rather than out of ‘nature’. Māori sum up their accent on the reciprocity between people and environment in whakataukī (proverb) Ka ora te whenua, ka ora te tangata (“Healthy land, healthy people”). However, increasingly non-indigenous environmental actors are emphasizing ‘Ecosystem Management’ and the ‘human dimension’ as necessary for biodiversity care. So are there really differences between cultures in this regard? Will increased accent on people enhance or threaten conservation of biodiversity? Does cross-cultural debate and assertion of difference help or hinder conservation?

Proposition by: Corey Bragg, Henrik Moller & Jenny Rock (Convenors).

Topic 2: Does co-management apply or sideline indigenous knowledge and values in the pursuit of conserving biodiversity?

Colonisers’ appropriation of land was commonly justified by Indigenous people not using it intensively or rationally. Today Māori are still prevented from using natural resources found in National Parks, many of which underpin important cultural material traditions. Māori values for biodiversity mainly just get discussed when there is specific pressure on a resource (e.g. development) or the required return of taonga for use or burial (e.g. feathers, dead specimens). Surely this misses opportunities (and rights) for different ways of conserving biodiversity and holds back progressive co-management practice. Could indigenous cultural values be the best drivers for pro-active promotion and implementation of conservation management generally? But can co-management really deliver these benefits for biodiversity, or must indigenous people actually own lands and waters before their values and knowledge will actually be applied to support biodiversity?

Proposition by: Michael Stevens and Avi Holzapfel

Topic 3: Should measures of biodiversity incorporate the diversity of ethnic / community value systems?

Ecologists tend to predict the use of biodiversity from vegetation maps. But different ethnic groups living in the same vegetation type use different plants according to their indigenous knowledge and interaction with other cultures. There is a need for systematic characterisation of the biodiversity, with study groups that are always multi-diciplinary. What new methods might be used to acquire, present and compare biodiversity and cultural values?

Proposition by: Dibungi Luseba and Elise Smith

Topic 4: How do we conserve and empower Traditional Ecological Knowledge before its disappearance?

Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) is recognised as a means of improving biodiversity research and conservation, as well as community empowerment. Not only the knowledge itself but also a “savoir faire”, or traditional approach to understand nature and to transfer knowledge, is valuable. However, despite a significant number of TEK conservation policies, the actual efficacy of these policies remains unclear, and it is apparent that TEK is continuing to degrade globally. There is an urgency to empower and conserve TEK before its further degradation. HOW?

Proposition by: Ruifei Tang and Pascale Michel

Topic 5: What is the rightful place and role of kaumātua (elders) in a tikanga (customary lore) based decision making process?

Government instituted Māori organisations have blocked kaumātua (elder) involvement in decision making processes where tikanga (normal practice, customary lore) and kawa (ceremony) need to be protected. Misunderstanding is still common among non-Māori managers and technicians about things Māori, including the language itself. This can result in a mismatch when Māori technicians are asked to explain submissions, with the outcome ending in a compromise of tikanga and the true meaning and intent of submissions.

Proposed by Hori Parata

Topic 6: Do introduced species have a future among New Zealand’s wildlife?

In 2001 a national survey of general public views to wildlife suggested that        “we may be approaching a time when introduced animal species gain greater acceptance among the general public to the extent that a significant proportion of people come to regard them as a ‘natural’ part of our environment” (Fraser 2001). Is it time to start reconciling introduced species into our conceptions of acceptable wild biodiversity in New Zealand?

Proposition by: Jamie Steer