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Tokenism, Collaboration and Traditional Ecological Knowledge

Introduction
For millennia humans have lived within, been a part of and influenced ecological systems (Denevan, 2011). Through our interaction with the environment many communities have accumulated a body of knowledge formed through their experiences and adaptation to the environment (Berkes, Colding, & Folke, 2000). This knowledge often referred to as traditional ecological knowledge or TEK, is being recognised as a valuable source of knowledge for environmental and conservation practices (Gomez-Baggethun et al, 2012).

However, there is concern that use of local expertise can be tokenistic or in other words TEK is “used” to give the appearance of inclusion (Pulsifer, 2011). As a result, the benefits of TEK if used in this way can be limiting. Whereas greater gains can be made if TEK is used through meaningful inclusion of both the knowledge and the people who hold it.

Why TEK is useful
TEK is a rich source of knowledge, including long term environmental patterns (Drew, 2005), conservation and resource use methods (Snively & Corglisia, 2000; Kimmerer, 2002) and specific local details of ecological systems (Drew, 2005). TEK also provides a platform for dialogue and collaboration with local communities (Huntington et al, 2011; Berkes, 2004). By incorporating TEK and the holders of this knowledge into environmental management and conservation practices it helps decrease distrust of scientists and government and increases the willingness to share knowledge (Lyver, 2002; Pierotti & Wildcat, 2000). This would be of benefit especially in areas where conservation issues and people are very much connected.

There has been an ongoing debate whether in order to protect ecosystems, people should be removed from them (Campbell, 2007; Terborgh, 2000). However, this fails to recognise that people have been part of ecological systems for millennia (Denevan, 2011; Schwartzman et al, 2000). Furthermore, environmental and social issues are complex and require a diverse and integrated approach to solving them (McNie, 2007; Berkes, 2009, Huntington, 2011). Subsequently, the incorporation of TEK and the people that hold it into collaborative relationships may add to a more diverse approach needed to solve environmental and social environmental issues (Kimmerer, 2002, Berkes, 2009; Uprety et al 2012).

Tokenistic use of TEK
TEK and the holders of this knowledge can suffer from tokenistic inclusion in conservation and environmental management. A good example of tokenistic inclusion is seen in Victoria Australia where politicians stated that they had managed to fully include Aboriginal people in the management of Victoria national parks. However, this was certainly not felt to be the case for the aboriginal people who did not feel included at all (Kingsley et al, 2009). Holders of TEK may be selectively integrated only as a means to secure political control of resources (Sylvain, 2005). In the scientific community TEK is often only used for its raw data where people, and cultural context are ignored (Agrawal, 2002; Briggs & Sharp, 2004). Furthermore, the inclusion of people in environmental management through various participatory forms is still questioned as to its benefits to the people involved and whether it is just bureaucratic tokenism (Palmer, 2006; Scott, 2011). Lastly inclusion may falsely label local communities especially indigenous, as being inherently conservationist rather than acknowledging that they use resources and may wish to develop further and improve their lives (Valdivia, 2005).

Tokenism impedes the benefits that TEK could have for decision making and local communities (Ellis, 2005). Such impediments retains distrust of government and scientists, creates assumptions over local people’s goals and hinders overarching environmental goals (Valdivia, 2007; Martinez, 1996).

A way forward
Tokenistic use of TEK and people will be met with resistance (Ross & Pickering, 2002). For a way forward there needs to be better understanding of how TEK can be used. Being able to work together and creating an environment to do so, effectively allows solutions to environmental issues to be realised (Berkes, 2007).

Some of the key ways to achieve better use of TEK is through the education of researchers (Pulsifer, 2011), the equal participation of the people whom the knowledge belongs in which they are treated as professionals and the equal use of TEK alongside more modern methods (Sutherland & Swayze, 2012; Ens, 2012). Doing so fosters can help collaborative relationships and ensures the knowledge used in decision making is not misunderstood (Stevenson, 2006, Mason et al, 2012).

Conclusion
TEK offers the chance of a more inclusive style of solving our environmental issues from resource use to conservation. This not only means communities become more willing to participate and to conserve but perhaps that it offers different views to the current norms (Kimmerer, 2002). The environmental issues we face are complex due to ecological and social interactions. As such, it makes sense that to solve these issues not only do we need to involve people at the local level but also to take advantage of the knowledge that they hold (Berkes, 2009).

References
Agrawal, A. (2002). Indigenous knowledge and the politics of classification. International Social Science Journal, 54(173), 287-297.

Briggs, J., & Sharp, J. (2004).’Indigenous Knowledge’s and Development: a postcolonial caution’: Third World Quarterly, 25, 4,661— 676.

Berkes, F., Colding, J., & Folke, C. (2000). Rediscovery of traditional ecological knowledge as adaptive management. Ecological applications, 10(5), 1251-1262.

Berkes, F. (2004). Rethinking community‐based conservation. Conservation biology, 18(3), 621-630.

Berkes, F., Berkes, M. K., & Fast, H. (2007). Collaborative integrated management in Canada’s north: The role of local and traditional knowledge and community-based monitoring. Coastal management, 35(1), 143-162.

Berkes, F. (2009). Evolution of co-management: role of knowledge generation, bridging organizations and social learning. Journal of environmental management, 90(5), 1692-1702.

Campbell, L. M. (2007). Local conservation practice and global discourse: a political ecology of sea turtle conservation. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 97(2), 313-334.

Denevan, W. M. (2011). The “pristine myth” revisited. Geographical Review,101(4), 576-591.

Drew, J. A. (2005). Use of traditional ecological knowledge in marine conservation. Conservation Biology, 19(4), 1286-1293.

Ellis, S.C. (2005).Meaningful Consideration? A Review of Traditional Knowledge in Environmental Decision Making: Arctic, 58, 1, 66–77.

Ens, E. (2012). Conducting two-way ecological research. People on Country: Vital Landscapes, Indigenous Futures’. (Eds J. Altman and S. Kerins.) pp, 45-64.

Gómez-Baggethun, E., Reyes-García, V., Olsson, P., & Montes, C. (2012). Traditional ecological knowledge and community resilience to environmental extremes: A case study in Doñana, SW Spain. Global Environmental Change, 22(3), 640-650.

Huntington, H. P., Gearheard, S., Mahoney, A. R., & Salomon, A. K. (2011). Integrating traditional and scientific knowledge through collaborative natural science field research: Identifying elements for success. Arctic, 437-445.

Kimmerer, R.W. (2002).Weaving Traditional Ecological Knowledge into Biological Education: A Call to Action. BioScience, 52, 5.

Kingsley, J., Townsend, M., Henderson-Wilson, C., & Bolam, B. (2013). Developing an exploratory framework linking Australian Aboriginal peoples’ connection to country and concepts of wellbeing. International journal of environmental research and public health, 10(2), 678-698.

LYVER, P.O.B. (2005). Co-managing environmental research: Lessons from two cross-cultural research partnerships in New Zealand. Environmental Conservation, 32, 4.

Martinez, D. (1996). First people, first-hand knowledge. Sierra, 81: 50–51

Mason, L., White, G., Morishima, G., Alvarado, E., Andrew, L., Clark, F., & Wilder, S. (2012). Listening and learning from traditional knowledge and Western science: a dialogue on contemporary challenges of forest health and wildfire. Journal of Forestry, 110(4), 187-193.

McNie, E. C. (2007). Reconciling the supply of scientific information with user demands: an analysis of the problem and review of the literature. Environmental Science & Policy, 10(1), 17-38.Palmer, L. (2006).Nature place and the Recognition of Indigenous Polities. Australian Geographer, 37, 1, 33-43.

Pierotti, R. & Wildcat, D. (2000).Traditional Ecological Knowledge: The third Alternative Commentary. Ecological Applications, 10, 5, 1333–1340.

Pulsifer, P. L., Laidler, G. J., Taylor, D. R., & Hayes, A. (2011). Towards an Indigenist data management program: Reflections on experiences developing an atlas of sea ice knowledge and use. The Canadian Geographer/Le Géographe canadien, 55(1), 108-124.

Ross, A. & Pickering, K. (2002).The Politics of Reintegrating Australian Aboriginal and American Indian Indigenous Knowledge into Resource Management: The Dynamics of Resource Appropriation and Cultural Revival. Human Ecology, 30, 2.

Scott, A. (2011). Focussing in on focus groups: Effective participative tools or cheap fixes for land use policy? Land Use Policy, 28(4), 684-694.

Schwartzman, S., Moreira, A., & Nepstad, D. (2000). Rethinking tropical forest conservation: perils in parks. Conservation Biology, 14(5), 1351-1357.

Snively, G. & Corsiglia, J. (2000).Discovering Indigenous Science: Implications for Science Education. Science Education, 85, 1, 6-34.

Stevenson, M.G. (2006).The Possibility of Difference: Rethinking Co-Management. Human Organization, 65, 2.

Sutherland, D., & Swayze, N. (2012). Including Indigenous knowledges and pedagogies in science-based environmental education programs. Canadian Journal of Environmental Education (CJEE), 17, 80-96.

Sylvain, R. (2005). Disorderly development: globalization and the idea of “culture” in the Kalahari. American Ethnologist, 32(3), 354-370.

Terborgh, J. (2000).The fate of tropical forests: A matter of Stewardship. Conservation Biology, 14, 5, 1358–61.

Uprety, Y., Asselin, H., Bergeron, Y., Doyon, F., & Boucher, J. F. (2012). Contribution of traditional knowledge to ecological restoration: practices and applications. Ecoscience, 19(3), 225-237.

Valdivia, G. (2005). On indigeneity, change, and representation in the northeastern Ecuadorian Amazon. Environment and Planning A, 37(2), 285-303.


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