A view of the RA’s research from Cultural Ecology

Lesley Head in her article Cultural ecology: the problematic human and the terms of engagement (Prog Hum Geogr 2007 31:837 DOI: 10.1177/0309132507080625) discusses the current ‘terms of engagement’ between the cultural and the ecological. She writes:

Although ecology would in theory claim a holistic remit that includes humans as part of earth’s biota, its usual practice has reinforced humans as different (Haila, 1999; 2000), with anthropologists more likely to consider humans within an explicitly biogeographical perspective (Terrell, 2006). A recent contents analysis of mainstream conservation biology journals shows a continued focus on relatively ‘intact’ habitats, with few studies ‘conducted entirely in areas under intense human pressure (agricultural landscapes, coastal and urban areas)’ (Fazey et al., 2005: 70).

Changes can be seen as part of the so-called ‘new ecology’, or ‘non-equilibrium’ ecology, in which change and contingency rather than stability is the norm, and ‘disturbances’ such as fire and human actions are understood as internal to the system rather than external.

She describes the Resilience Alliance as follows:

An integrative brand of ecology is practised by the Resilience Alliance, published mostly in their journal Ecology and Society. The Alliance works through interdisciplinary collaborations to explore the dynamics of social-ecological systems, using key concepts such as resilience, adaptability and transformability. The approach is avowedly integrative of ‘ecology’ and ‘society’ (eg, Gunderson et al., 2005) and acknowledges the pervasiveness of humans in ecosystems (Elmqvist et al., 2003; Folke et al., 2004; Trosper, 2005). Yet the assumption of separate systems remains curiously unexamined in this work. Further there is conceptual slippage between treating humans as different, and ultimately absorbing all human activities as part of ecosystems.

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