Sustaining Cultural and Biological Diversity in a Rapidly Changing World: Lessons for Global Policy

American Museum of Natural History
April 2 through 5, 2008


Sustaining Cultural and Biological Diversity in a Rapidly Changing World: Lessons for Global Policy is co-organized by the American Museum of Natural History’s Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, IUCN-CEESP Theme on Culture and Conservation, Terralingua, and the Wenner-Gren Foundation. This symposium is made possible by major support and organizational assistance from The Christensen Fund. Additional support has been provided by the Rockefeller Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and Oak Foundation, and by the National Science Foundation. It is the CBC’s Thirteenth Annual Symposium and was held at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, April 2 through 5, 2008.

The past two decades have witnessed an upsurge of interest in the links between cultural, linguistic, and biological diversity. These various manifestations of the diversity of life are under threat by some of the same forces, yet, both in scientific inquiry and in the realms of policy and management, nature and culture are often treated as separate and unrelated entities. This stems in part from the mutual isolation that has traditionally characterized training and work in the natural and social sciences, leading to limited communication or collaboration among fields concerned with sustainability in both nature and culture. Another contributing factor has been a limited appreciation of the relevance of the vast variety of approaches to human-environment relationships that have developed across the world’s diverse cultures, often through close interactions with the natural environment and based on a perception of humans as part of, not separate from, nature. Fragmented approaches have not been successful in arresting the growing erosion of the world’s biodiversity and of the vast and diverse pool of cultural knowledge, practices, and languages developed by humanity. This is resulting in an ever less diverse and resilient world.

Sustaining Cultural and Biological Diversity” will seek to bridge gaps, address challenges and opportunities, and help to forge a long-term multi-dimensional vision for sustaining biological and cultural diversity. In order to affect decision making, specific policy processes will be targeted and public outreach goals pursued.

Leading natural and social scientists, conservation and development practitioners, members of indigenous, tribal, and local communities, representatives of governmental and non-governmental organizations, U.N. agencies, universities and research institutions, funding organizations, educators, students, and others versed in relevant fields to create a platform for analysis and dialogue across disciplines and knowledge systems.

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