Culture and Ecology - Cultivation, Food, Concepts of Ecology

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This presentation was made at the 'Towards a Higher Education of Inclusion, Collaboration and Community Engagement' workshop by D. Narasimhan from the Dept. of Botany, Madras Christian College, Chennai. Professor Narasimhan pointed out that agriculture is the single most impactful shift upon the environment in human history. Settled cultivation wiped out huge swathes of forest and is far more destructive than the much-maligned shifting cultivation, also described as slash-and-burn cultivation. This shift in human practice is integral to cultures and indigenous medicines though. Food has become globalised much before markets ever did - with fruits and vegetables indigenous to locations across the globe become central to Indian cuisine. Sacred groves are praised as examples of culture protecting ecology but are vulnerable to the decisions of hard economics with land needs for agriculture or other purposes shrinking their boundaries. Again, a sacred grove could hold certain species alone as totemic objects while others could be destroyed.

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Culture and Ecology - Cultivation, Food, Concepts of Ecology

  1. 1. CULTURE AND ECOLOGY D. Narasimhan Centre for Floristic Research Department of Botany, Madras Christian College (Autonomous) Tambaram, Chennai – 600 059 [email_address]
  2. 2. A shift in the mode of obtaining food approximately 12,000 years ago has resulted in most of the ecological changes that have taken place on earth.
  3. 3. Human cultures have shifted from Gathering and Hunting mode of food to Production mode
  4. 4. Systematic destruction of forests and changing the different the ecosystems for cultivation began since then
  5. 5. Neolithic cultures were engaged in intense agriculture
  6. 6. <ul><li>Domestication of animals & plants </li></ul><ul><li>Formation of civilizations </li></ul><ul><li>Institutionalization of religions and systems of managements </li></ul><ul><li>Ownership of land and territorial wars </li></ul><ul><li>Development of literature and fine arts </li></ul><ul><li>Growth of industries </li></ul>Agriculture has led to:
  7. 7. THE ORIGIN OF AGRICULTURAL CROPS AND OF DOMESTIC ANIMALS
  8. 8. How do we assess the interference of human cultures on ecology?
  9. 9. Should we blame the cultures for raping, looting and destroying the nature?
  10. 10. Should we appreciate the role of cultures in taming, modifying and controlling the nature and making the earth a comfortable home for human progeny?
  11. 11. Shifting cultivation: How do we understand the practice?
  12. 12. Agricultural landscapes and biodiversity
  13. 13. 45% of the species used by Malaiyali tribe comes agricultural landscapes
  14. 14. 20% of the plants used in Siddha medicine Come from agricultural landscapes
  15. 15. Anthropogenic Biomes of the World * Mosaic : >25% tree cover mixed with > 25% pasture and/or cropland *
  16. 16. CULTURE & COMMUNITY KNOWLEDGE   Culturally Rich Papua New Guinea Nigeria Cameroon Bio – Culturally Rich Brazil Mexico Indonesia India Australia Zaire Biodiversity Rich Peru Malaysia Columbia Equator China Madagascar Bio – Culturally Rich Brazil Mexico Indonesia India Australia Zaire
  17. 17. Interaction between culture and ecology developed locale specific systems of knowledge with comparable parallels
  18. 18. Role of bio-cultural knowledge <ul><li>Helps to classify, understand and retrieve information on local resources </li></ul><ul><li>Helps in the management of local resources </li></ul><ul><li>Plays a major role in the manipulation of resources </li></ul>
  19. 19. Latex trees, pastoral communities and milk Myths, Ecology and Culture Surrogates – Vanni tree, fire and Shiva
  20. 20. Culture and Conservation Sacred groves
  21. 26. Tinai or Global Culture Capsicum Tomato Potato
  22. 27. Special Economic Zones Culture, Development and Ecology
  23. 28. Thank you

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