Reviews for Biocultural Diversity: A Global Sourcebook

The task of promoting biocultural diversity is immense and, I dare to say, urgent as the threat of loss of languages and connections to land seems to grow as time goes by. This book shows the ways in which it is possible to reverse this trend. Connecting local experiences and indigenous groups with each other can reaffirm that, by defending their connection to their land, their language, and by continuing their engagement with their environment, indigenous people are contributing, not only to their ‘life projects’, but to global diversity as well… this book is a compelling case for reconceptualising conservation through the biocultural perspective. The book should be indispensible for NGOs, grassroots organizations, and scholars that intend to, or already works with, the complex connections between indigenous populations and conservation.

Jose Martinez-Reyes, September 2012
Society of Ethnobiology, Volume 3:61-62
Sourcebook Review: Martinez-Reves (642)

Biocultural Diversity Conservation: A Global Sourcebook may prove to be a seminal contribution to the evolving dialogue on human survival, sustainability, and biodiversity. Academics, professionals, policy-makers, and others should note that the book’s subtle, variegated, and well-grounded analyses gain strength by drawing on much-needed insights from threatened cultures. International and national agencies should heed the authors’ plea to use the book as a resource for developing “policies and action plans…that support the integrated protection, maintenance and restoration of diversity in both nature and culture.” In essence, the book should be used as a tool to recognize and support the many intangible and tangible values of biocultural diversity.

Sanjay Khanna
Policy Matters 17, October 2010
Download full text: Sourcebook Review: Khanna (601)

“Biocultural Diversity Conservation” is an eye-opener: it sheds a whole new angle on biodiversity, culture and language in relation to the way the world is changing. Who would have thought there was a clear, positive correlation between biodiversity of organisms, and diversity of human culture and language? Could it really be, as the authors suggest, that losing one implies the loss of the others, and conservation of all need to go together? Broadly speaking, we are told (and illustrations demonstrate this) it is the tropical belt that surrounds the world where the richest “biocultural diversity” is concentrated: especially in the core areas of the Amazonian Basin, Central Africa and Indomalaysia/ Melanesia.”

William Critchley, Amsterdam, July 2010
World Association of Soil and Water Conservation
Download full text: Sourcebook Review: Critchley (485)

In an ideal world of ecosystems in balance, humans would develop a broad diversity of cultures, each one
adapted to the ecology in which it is placed. Today, instead of trending toward more diversity, humans are
experiencing a rapid convergence to a single cultural pattern—that of consumerism—and the conservation
practices previously preserved in unique languages and customs are being lost. This struggle, and the battle
to reverse “the convergence toward dominant cultural models,” is captured in a recently published book
titled Biocultural Diversity Conservation: A Global Sourcebook.

The authors, Luisa Maffi and Ellen Woodley, analyze 45 different projects from around the world—each one
aimed at either preserving or reviving local cultural practices. Some focus on language conservation while
others train youth in traditional craft-making or medicine. The authors reject the notion that indigenous
people are explicit “conservationists,” arguing that the maintenance of forestland or plant diversity does not
require “formalized conservation guidelines.” Instead, “conservation-like behavior may arise implicitly from…a
fluid theory-like belief system that takes shape through cultural upbringing.” In other words, long-lasting
cultures often practice conservation without even thinking about it.

Overall, Maffi and Woodley, and the leaders of each project described in their new book, do a great job of
communicating best practices of biocultural diversity conservation. Elders, language, and ritual emerge as
major factors in the success of projects. These are three things that best preserve deep ecological
understanding that cannot be communicated in one lifetime, or in a generalized textbook. True conservation
cannot be calculated, planned, and executed—it must be lived.

John Mulrow, June 2010
Transforming Cultures, Worldwatch Institute
Download full text: Sourcebook Review: Mulrow (451)

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