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"The Oldest Human Heritage": Biodiversity and Cultural Heritage 
Kathryn Lafrenz Samuels (University of Maryland)
Trinidad Rico (Rutgers University)
Senate House - Torrington Room
Start time:
27 May, 2016 at 11:30 (UTC+0)
Session slots:

Short Abstract:

Biodiversity has been quipped as the "the oldest human heritage" by E.O. Wilson. In this session we will hold a discussion workshop of pre-circulated papers that explore the promise of heritage practices for fostering biodiversity in the face of global climate change.

Long Abstract:

This session investigates the contribution of cultural heritage practices to fostering biodiversity. Amongst the many risks and impacts of global climate change, biodiversity loss is an often overlooked process. In part, this is likely due to the long-term habitat and species destruction already wrought by human hands that has existed for centuries, so that there is nothing particularly "new" about biodiversity loss compared to other effects of climate change. The human-caused pandemic of biodiversity loss—a dovetailing of older and newer, direct and proximate, anthropogenic causes—pushes against the limits of resilience, which in the domain of species loss has been recognized as the sixth mass extinction in the history of the Earth. Therefore, biodiversity loss in the context of climate change does throw in stark relief the precarious balance of earth systems, composed of an unraveling biotic fabric already too weakened to absorb the shocks of changing climatic conditions. Heritage practices offer one means to steward biodiversity (e.g. in agriculture, foodways, sustainable landscapes, heirloom seed saving, heritage livestock breeds) by joining environmentally sustainable and dynamic, culturally responsive actions. This session is organized as a discussion workshop around a collection of five pre-circulated papers by sociocultural anthropologists and archaeologists that address cultural heritage practices related to biodiversity, including the challenges and vulnerabilities facing these practices and biodiversity due to global climate change. Participants will give a brief summary of their paper, followed by discussant responses, and questions or comments from the audience.

Accepted papers: