Working Paper

Nature as Culture

Conceptualizing What It Implies and Potential Ways to Capture the Paradigm in Scenario Building Exercises

Date Published
19 Dec 2023
Suneetha Subramanian Maiko Nishi
Series Title
UNU-IAS Working Paper
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The paper reviews various ways of measuring and capturing the links between culture and the natural environment, and the challenges in obtaining relevant information and data due to the highly contextual nature of this connection. It also identifies promising initiatives that could be used to capture the bio-cultural linkage, known as Nature as Culture or One with Nature concept. The authors emphasize the need to understand the human dimensions of conserving nature, especially in the context of declining biodiversity. 

The recent Values Assessment conducted by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) highlights the impact of different worldviews on people's relationship with nature. This paper summarizes the findings from a literature review that examined nature-culture interconnections and how they play out in outcomes related to conservation and human well-being. It seeks to highlight the various ways in which Nature as Culture is conceptualized and further, generalized. It identifies a short set of promising indicators that could be used for scenario modelling for nature futures work.

The paper emphasizes the need for further research in this area, calling for methods that incorporate a diverse range of resources across ecosystems, species types and national borders, to ensure that the concept is more robustly embedded in plans to operationalize policy goals on sustainability, including biodiversity conservation. It highlights ground-truthing and primary data collection as essential components in understanding intrinsic, instrumental and relational values for fostering sustainable practices. 

The literature review was conducted for a project on Natures Futures Framework led by PBL Netherlands Environment Agency.

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