Archive for March, 2011

The Power of Environmental Knowledge: Ethnoecology and Environmental Conflicts in Mexican Conservation

By: Nora Haenn, 1999

Conceptions of the environment held by policy-makers stand in sharp contrast to those held by farmers. The policy-makers think of the ideal environment as one that is not disturbed by human presence, and they therefore seek to set aside land preserves. Furthermore, policy-makers view short-term engineered change, such as felling of forests, as detrimental to the environment. On the other hand, the farmers support short term change if it makes economic sense for them, and they do not understand land preservation because they need access to as many resources as possible. These differing conceptions lead to tension between farmers and policy-makers with regard to conservation measures taken by the government.


Land and Indigenous Peoples


Land provides the food, the shelter, and records the history of the people, and in return the people care for and respect the land. These fundamental beliefs and relationships are reflected in the language and vocabulary of the Gitskan. Landscapes are described by both the topographic features and the presence or absence of standing water and trees.

The forest (with trees) communities are not differentiated by species but rather by individual location where different events took place. Treeless areas (without trees) include prairies, burned areas, and even landslides or avalanches. Location and orientation are in reference to the river or the mountain; upstream, downstream, toward the river, away from the river, up the mountain, halfway up the mountain, or down the mountains.

Locations are specified with their name, which demonstrates to whose house (matrilineal family group headed by a chief) it belongs (who owns the land), the resources available at that point, or events that took place in that spot. For example a bend in the river may be called place-to-catch-good-fish, thus recording the importance of the site. The river is central in most references since it is the life-blood of the people, providing the salmon that sustains the people.

Ethnoecology reveals the complex and intricate relationship of people with their land in addition to offering another lens through which to examine the world. It can be very useful when two cultures clash. Currently, ethnoecology is practical as a cultural broker, or a translator/bridge, during development projects. Conservation and agricultural efforts have especially relied on ethnoecology to help local people understand and integrate new technology and practices into their lifestyles.

WWF – The Heart of Borneo Declaration

Watch HoB

Three Countries, One Conservation Vision We, the Governments of Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia and Malaysia, recognizing the importance of the Island of Borneo as a life support system, hereby declare that:

  • With one conservation vision and with a view to promote people’s welfare, we will cooperate in ensuring the effective management of forest resources and conservation of a network of protected areas, productive forests and other sustainable land-uses within an area which the three respective countries will designate as the “Heart of Borneo HoB”, thereby maintaining Bornean natural heritage for the benefit of present and future generations, with full respect to each country’s sovereignty and territorial boundaries, and also without prejudice to the ongoing negotiations on land boundary demarcation.
  • The HoB Initiative is a voluntary trans-boundary cooperation of the three countries combining the stakeholders’ interests, based on local wisdom, acknowledgment of and respect for laws, regulations and policies in the respective countries and taking into consideration relevant multilateral environmental agreements, as well as existing regional and bilateral agreements / arrangements.
  • We are willing to cooperate based on sustainable development principles through research and development, sustainable use, protection, education and training, fundraising, as well as other activities that are relevant to trans-boundary management, conservation and development within the areas of the HoB.

To support this Declaration, we, the three countries will prepare our respective project documents incorporating the strategic and operational plans, which will form the basis for the development of our road map towards realizing the vision of the HoB Initiative. Done at Bali, Indonesia on the twelfth day of February, two thousand and seven in three original copies.

Source: WWF – The Heart of Borneo Declaration.