Cultural and Spiritual Significance of Nature in Protected Areas: Governance, Management and Policy

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Bas Verschuuren, Steve Brown
Routledge, Aug 15, 2018 - Social Science - 314 pages

Cultural and spiritual bonds with ‘nature’ are among the strongest motivators for nature conservation; yet they are seldom taken into account in the governance and management of protected and conserved areas. The starting point of this book is that to be sustainable, effective, and equitable, approaches to the management and governance of these areas need to engage with people’s deeply held cultural, spiritual, personal, and community values, alongside inspiring action to conserve biological, geological, and cultural diversity.

Since protected area management and governance have traditionally been based on scientific research, a combination of science and spirituality can engage and empower a variety of stakeholders from different cultural and religious backgrounds. As evidenced in this volume, stakeholders range from indigenous peoples and local communities to those following mainstream religions and those representing the wider public. The authors argue that the scope of protected area management and governance needs to be extended to acknowledge the rights, responsibilities, obligations, and aspirations of stakeholder groups and to recognise the cultural and spiritual significance that ‘nature’ holds for people.

The book also has direct practical applications. These follow the IUCN Best Practice Guidelines for protected and conserved area managers and present a wide range of case studies from around the world, including Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and the Americas.


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Cultural and spiritual significance of nature in protected and conserved
Policy and practice
Pathways for deepening connections
Mainstream faith participation in protected and conserved areas
Defining new methods and strategies to further
Connecting conservation practices
The case of the Ramsar Convention on wetlands
Developing guidelines for integrating cultural and spiritual values into
Managing religious pilgrimage to sacred sites in Indian protected areas
Spiritual ecology and nature
Batwa culture and the management of national parks
Human and nonhuman agency

Exploring the usefulness of natureculture convergences in World
Buddhism and the management of sacred sites for biodiversity
The significance of indigenous nature spirituality
Involving the general
An Australian experience
Reflections on the situational and relational contexts of cultural

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About the author (2018)

Bas Verschuuren is a freelance biocultural adviser and associate researcher at the Department of Sociology of Development and Change at Wageningen University, the Netherlands. He combines his experience in conservation projects with applied research on the cultural, spiritual, and sacred dimensions of nature in management and policy.

Steve Brown is an honorary associate with the Museum and Heritage Studies Program at the University of Sydney, Australia. His research interests include: conceptualising and operationalising place-attachment in heritage theory and practice; the integration of naturecultures in the heritage management of protected areas; and the material culture of domestic homes and gardens.

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