Sunday, October 31, 2010

Discussion Question 8 (Tools) comments due Nov 2nd

How do traditional (or rural) societies use and value biological diversity? What is the relative importance of biological diversity in both traditional and modern societies? How do these societies value biodiversity knowledge?


Colin Fujii said...

In rural and urban areas, the way that biodiversity is valued is colored by the socio-economic differences in such regions. A genuinely urban area tends to be somewhat disconnected from contact with fully diverse ecosystems, with most experience being with those organisms adapted to benefit off the detritus of human society, scavengers such as pigeons, gulls, and raccoons. In this manner, it is somewhat likely that an individual from major urban centers might focus on the aesthetic purposes of biodiversity within a region, in a wistful appreciation for things they themselves are never really exposed to. Of course, at the same time, they may be picturing an unrealistic suburban-like view of nature, rather than the often less kind reality.

In a rural area, which is more likely to sit either at the border of more wilderness or else have to interact with it on a daily basis, the observed benefits might take on a more practical viewpoint, especially in communities that make their living off the land. The people living in these regions have an economic stake in the management of their surroundings, and if it negatively affects their livelihood may not be immediately focused on the management of biological diversity. At the same time, these individuals would have much more practical experience with diverse ecosystems and may appreciate diversity in their surroundings much more directly.

However, these are two extremes on a gradient. Suburban areas blend urban and rural characteristics, coastal cities have people who live off the ocean almost exclusively, and these cases are not in any manner universal. But they could reveal general trends that help shape education and outreach programs in certain areas.

Aparna Choudhury said...

It is no question that traditional or rural societies value biodiversity differently than we do living in an urban/modern society, but whether or not they view it with more importance is debatable. Rural societies are not so removed from their natural surroundings as people in the industrialized world are. They see themselves as part of the ecosystem around them, whereas we see ourselves as completely separated from it and simply as viewers. It is true that in rural areas the people use animals and other natural resources for food, medicine, clothing, and agriculture just like we do, but they don't see it as a commodity. They only use the resources for sustenance, and not for surplus. Also, because they are so close to the natural environment around them, they can feel the effects of changes in it immediately. On the other hand, we are so disconnected from the outside world, we feel as if we are untouchable, and that the detriment we cause to the environment will not disturb us at all. This is dangerous because one day when the damages we have caused catch up to us, it will be intensified a hundredfold.

In the urban society we ignorantly to go zoos and wildlife preserves to feel closer to nature, not realizing that we are already a part of it. We only value natural resources to the extent that they benefit or profit us as a consumer. In more traditional regions, nature is appreciated and valued culturally, religiously, and aesthetically as well as for providing welfare.

Taking all this into consideration, it is also important to note that although we exploit most resources that we discovered have some use to us, we have more knowledge of these resources than rural societies do, and we are slowly beginning to use this knowledge to preserve the environment that we have taken so much from. This can't be said about rural regions, but then again, they don't necessarily need to preserve anything in the first place.

Tyler Toth said...

A rural or traditional society is in close proximity to nature and the resources on which it relies. This can lead to the society placing one of two very different values on biodiversity. Since rural communities tend to have agriculture-dependent economies, individuals within these societies are more connected to the land and utilize its resources and biodiversity directly. This situation tends to promote a more practical outlook on biodiversity and a greater appreciation of the environment in which they dwell. Since these people are reliant on the ecosystem for necessities such as food, water, clothing, and shelter, they may place an incredible value on biodiversity and are tremendously motivated to conserve it. On the other hand, the people of these societies may place a low value on biodiversity because of the high prioritization they must place on the utilization or agricultural development of the environment for survival. Their dependency on the land’s resources may force them to increase consumption rates in order to prevent death from starvation and disease and to ensure their own survival. Make a person chose between conserving biodiversity or feeding their starving family, and their choice will be rather obvious. The answer to which value, high or low, rural societies place on biodiversity is mostly case-dependent.

Conversely, urban societies are largely removed from places of biodiversity. This can result in individuals having few experiences of biodiversity and the negative effects of its destruction or overconsumption. This ignorance may result in a lower appreciation of the environment and its protection in modern settings. However, this disconnect can also create a longing to preserve the few spots of undisturbed nature that are left. Additionally, it can promote an idealistic view of nature that focuses on its magnificence in lieu of the gritty details. This romanticizing of nature can provide a great motivation to conserve biodiversity, but its idealistic view of the ecosystem is not really compatible with the practical outlook of rural societies. This lack of compatibility becomes a major issue when considering that most places left with high biodiversity are also home to traditional societies. The contrasting views lead to arguments between the different societies over not only how and what parts of biodiversity should be conserved, but whether it should be conserved at all.

Unknown said...

Biological diversity can provide benefit to an area if maintained in a sustainable way. In this question we are given two “areas”: traditional (urban) and rural. Looking first at urban societies, we see a community that has usually manipulated the land/area to reap maximum benefit, even if at the cost of the land/biodiversity. It’s a problem we see too often today, humans molding the land to their will and doing so in a non-sustainable way. So in this sense, urban societies don’t fully appreciate biodiversity or it’s value. Urban societies see biodiversity more as a relic of the past (the idea of a zoo comes to mind). It holds some level of aesthetic value, but that compared to monetary value is useless nowadays. For the most part, urban and rural societies are separate from each other because of the differences in land/biodiversity use.

Rural societies can be seen as having a more sustainable, friendly relationship with the local biodiversity/habitat. And although this does hold some exceptions (think some rural areas do use burn and turn policy), for the most part we see the trend to be true. Rural societies live off the land, and thus have a better understanding of the idea that, to continue living, they need the area/biodiversity to continue living. This understanding in turn equates to rural societies valuing biodiversity more than most urban societies. The idea of sustainability vs maximum/immediate profit is what really separates these two. Urban societies have destroyed real jungles to make “concrete jungles” all for the reason of a quick dollar and because we could. One could argue that rural societies would fall prey to this greed given the option, but then again, that seems to be the unfortunate natural progression of human evolution.

Clint Meek