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Human Ecology

, Volume 34, Issue 4, pp 495–513 | Cite as

Coming to Understanding: Developing Conservation through Incremental Learning in the Pacific Northwest

  • Nancy J. Turner
  • Fikret Berkes
Article

Abstract

Lessons in conservation are often seen as resulting from cycles of overexploitation and subsequent depletion of resources, followed by catastrophic consequences of shortage and starvation, and finally, development of various strategies, including privatization of the commons, to conserve remaining resource stocks. While such scenarios have undoubtedly occurred on many occasions, we suggest that they are not the only means by which people develop conservation practices and concepts. There are other pathways leading to ecological understanding and conservation, which act at a range of scales and levels of complexity. These include: lessons from the past and from other places, perpetuated and strengthened through oral history and discourse; lessons from animals, learned through observation of migration and population cycles, predator effects, and social dynamics; monitoring resources and human effects on resources (positive and negative), building on experiences and expectations; observing changes in ecosystem cycles and natural disturbance events; trial and error experimentation and incremental modification of habitats and populations. Humans, we believe, are capable of building a sophisticated conservation ethic that transcends individual species and resources. A combination of conservation knowledge, practices, and beliefs can lead to increasingly greater sophistication of ecological understanding and the continued encoding of such knowledge in social institutions and worldview.

Key words

Traditional ecological knowledge conservation indigenous peoples ethnoecology 

Notes

Ackowledgments

We are indebted to the many knowledgeable elders and cultural specialists who contributed to the development of this paper, especially: Cyril Carpenter (Heiltsuk), Arvid Charlie (Hul'qumin'um Coast Salish), Earl Claxton, Sr. (Saanich, Coast Salish), Chief Johnny and Helen Clifton (Gitga'at, Tsimshian), Chief Adam Dick (Kwakwaka'wakw), John Elliott Jr. (Saanich, Coast Salish), Chief Earl Maquinna George (Nuu-Chah-Nulth), Captain Gold (Haida), Dr. Daisy Sewid-Smith (Kwakwaka'wakw), Kim Recalma-Clutesi (Kwakwaka'wakw), Dr. Mary Thomas (Secwepemc), Pauline Waterfall (Heiltsuk), Chief Roger William (Tsilhqot'in). A special Giaxsixa to Pauline Waterfall for her careful reading of this article and her contributions and to Nicholas Claxton for his interest in the Saanich Reefnet fishery. We also thank our colleagues, Dr. Iain Davidson-Hunt, Dr. Eugene Hunn, Dr. Eugene Anderson, and Nigel Haggan for their insights. We also acknowledge with appreciation the contributions of the three anonymous reviewers of this paper. Research was funded in part by Coasts Under Stress major collaborative research initiative (Dr. Rosemary Ommer, P.I.) and through a grant from Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (General research grant #410-2000-1166 to NT). Berkes' work was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and the Canada Research Chairs program.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Environmental StudiesUniversity of VictoriaVictoriaCanada
  2. 2.Natural Resources InstituteUniversity of ManitobaWinnipegCanada

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