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The Myth of Wilderness and the Fate of Traditional Communities in the Brazilian Amazon

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Diegues, Antonio Carlos
Conference: The Commons in an Age of Globalisation, the Ninth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property
Location: Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Conf. Date: June 17-21, 2002
Date: 2002
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/295
Sector: General & Multiple Resources
Social Organization
Region: South America
Subject(s): IASC
common pool resources
protected areas--policy
traditional knowledge
indigenous institutions
Abstract: "Already, there is more protected area in the Amazon than in most of the Northern countries. In the USA, one of the proponents of the non-human use idea of protected areas as well as in other Northern countries a smaller percentage of their territories is environmentall protected. Judging from this, it would seem that UNEP deems the idea of national parks to be more appropriate for the Third World than for industrialized countries. And this in spite of the fact that many Third World countries are experiencing food shortage crises, which are in part due to insufficient agricultural land and inequitable land distribution.... "In Brazil, at the federal level as well as in some NGOs, the question of the presence of traditional inhabitants in national parks and other conservation areas has been dealt with from a conservative point of view, one that is still influenced by urban perceptions of the natural world and wilderness. In underdeveloped countries, conservation could be better achieved through the real integration and participation of the traditional populations who to a great extent have been responsible for maintaining the biological diversity that today we are trying to rescue. "However, there is also a need to guard against a simplistic view of the 'ecologically noble savage.' Not all inhabitants are 'born conservationists,' but among them there exist traditional populations with a vast store of empirical knowledge of the workings of the natural world in which they live. We need to better understand the relations between the maintenance of biological diversity and the conservation of cultural diversity. An interdisciplinary view is urgently needed, whereby biologists, forestry engineers, sociologists, anthropologists, and political scientists, among others, work in an integrated way in cooperation with traditional populations. As Gomez-Pompa and Kaus have said, we are discussing and establishing policies on a subject that we know little about; and traditional populations, who know their environment better than us, rarely participate in debates and decisions about conservation management."

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