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The Relevance of Indigenous Knowledge to Contemporary Sustainability

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  • The subject of Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) is currently attracting interest from many quarters, including biologists and philosophers as well as the more traditional mix of anthropologists and other social scientists. Given rapid contemporary rates of change, as well as the novel species and environments being created by six billion humans, what is the relevance of TEK for today’s world? Why would a working ecologist be interested in this area, and are there implications for practitioners in other fields related to contemporary resource analysis and management? This essay will discuss three of many possible related answers to these questions. First, most ecologists only encounter their study systems over very limited time spans. Thus, there is a wealth of local observations at the level of populations and species that can be contributed by astute observers whose lives and livelihoods are tied to the land in complex ways. Second, conventional science, particularly ecological science, is not well-tooled for recognizing, analyzing, and responding to emergent properties of complex systems such as ecosystems. TEK, however, is holistic by nature, and so can clearly complement conventional science, which can only study whole system behavior using models that extrapolate from known conditions and processes. Third, it seems particularly counterproductive to fail to include the broadest possible diversity of problem-solving approaches during these times of emerging novel problems. The literature on TEK is voluminous, and it is not the intent, in this brief essay, to provide anything approaching a comprehensive review. Rather, I hope to provide both food for multidisciplinary thought, and a few references that may open the way for readers interested in pursuing these ideas.
  • KEYWORDS: Special topics, Fisheries economics, Indigenous Knowledge, Resource Management and Research
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  • Ford, Jesse. The Relevance of Indigenous Knowledge to Contemporary Sustainability. In: Microbehavior and Macroresults:Proceedings of the Tenth Biennial Conference of the International Institute ofFisheries Economics and Trade, July 10-14, 2000, Corvallis, Oregon, USA.Compiled by Richard S. Johnston and Ann L. Shriver. InternationalInstitute of Fisheries Economics and Trade (IIFET), Corvallis, 2001.
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  • Corvallis, Oregon, USA
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  • Johnston, Richard S.
  • Shriver, Ann L.
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  • International Institute of Fisheries Economics and TradeU.S. National Marine Fisheries ServiceMG Kailis Group
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