By Peter Watson
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Extra resources for Animal Traction
The world needs more ‘sacred’ texts that codify the ownership and knowledge of ‘resources’ possessed by local people, such as the Mayan Atlas has done in Belize (Harris and Vang, 1998). Such texts may incorporate cosmology, ethics, legal concerns, resource issues, maps and a host of narratives, many formerly found only in the oral state. ‘Resources’ atlases of local worlds become a powerful tool for cultural preservation through the support of ethnic and other local claims to land. They are strengthened by combining diverse local and outsider knowledge and, of paramount importance, by being made widely available in different media, including online.
Chapters 10 and 17 point out the value of indigenous knowledge because of its collection over the long term, in contrast to the more often short-term scientific studies. By surveying traditional ecological knowledge of megapodes in the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea and comparing it to scientific ecological knowledge, Chapter 10 attempts to quantify what is ‘reliable’ traditional knowledge and discusses how the two knowledge systems can be integrated. Chapter 17 looks at how communication between conservationists and indigenous peoples can be facilitated by using the bird knowledge of the Hewa, of Papua New Guinea, to identify the impacts of tradition upon biodiversity in their shaping of the environment by creating a mosaic of habitats of varying diversity.
An analogous modern situation can be used. Are the effects of free market capitalism and its associated political structures driving worldwide environmental decay and ecological collapse, or is it the other way around? The consensus favours the former interpretation. In reality, human management of the environment is highly contextual in time and place, and even biological factors such as carrying capacity, when strained, can be mitigated by new human adaptations. The question of whether traditional and local ecological knowledge is adequate for the essential activity of conservation of biodiversity is inextricably bound up with perceptions of how adequate it has been in the past.
Animal Traction by Peter Watson