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Environmental protection requires cultural knowledge

Author  :  ZHANG JIE     Source  :    Chinese Social Sciences Today     2017-04-10

A Mongolian-Khitan ritual worshipping heaven, the land and the lake before the winter fishing, was held on Dec. 28, 2016 on the frozen surface of Chagan Lake, Qian Gorlos Mongol Autonomous County, Jilin Province.

Environmental protection has been a focal point of academic studies in recent years. A new approach to the issue is ecological anthropology, which studies the relationship between human activities and ecology.

Ecological anthropology emphasizes the interaction between society and the environment. In the context of increasing global interdependence, Luo Kanglong, director of the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology at Jishou University, suggested ecological anthropology should analyze its research object in the multicultural context, paying attention to cultural reproduction within it.

Cultural means of addressing biological invasions may be found through studies of ecological anthropology, fundamentally controlling the danger of biological pollution, Luo said. In regard to ecological catastrophes, local ecological knowledge should be explored, spread and utilized for ecological rehabilitation and preservation, building an ecological safety barrier by cultural grafting and reconstruction, Luo said.

China has a complex geographical structure and diverse ecological types. Various ethnic groups have their own traditional ecological cultures. The borderlands are the most important ecological barriers and biological gene banks in China, Luo said, adding they are also a stage for the most diversified human landscapes. However, traditional knowledge is in the danger of being lost and requires urgent studies, he added.

Yin Shaoting, a professor of anthropology from Yunnan University, is known for his local studies in ecological anthropology. The people of ethnic groups in Yunnan Province have gained abundant local insight through their agricultural system of slash-and-burn cultivation, adjusting to their living environment, he said.

Luo suggested conducting cultural exploration of ways to tackle such ecological catastrophes as sand storms, smog and desertification. China has initiated a series of projects to restore farmlands to forests, grasslands and lakes as well as eco-migration, connecting ecological development with raising people’s living standard. Luo suggested further studies on ecological poverty relief and ecological industries should be conducted to support those projects.

Editor: Yu Hui

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