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Ecosystem Services and Sacred Natural Sites: Reconciling Material and Non-material Values in Nature Conservation

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Abstract:

Ecosystems services are provisions that humans derive from nature. Ecologists trying to value ecosystems have proposed five categories of these services: preserving, supporting, provisioning, regulating and cultural. While this ecosystem services framework attributes 'material' value to nature, sacred natural sites are areas of 'non-material' spiritual significance to people. Can we reconcile the material and non-material values? Ancient classical traditions recognise five elements of nature: earth, water, air, fire and ether. This commentary demonstrates that the perceived properties of these elements correspond with the ecosystem services framework. Whilst the two can be reconciled, the 'elements of nature' framework is argued to be more suitable to make a case for conservation of sacred natural sites because it can be attractive to traditional societies whilst being acceptable to Western science.

Keywords: ecosystem services; elements; nature; sacred sites

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.3197/096327109X12532653285731

Publication date: 2009-11-01

More about this publication?
  • Environmental Values is an international peer-reviewed journal that brings together contributions from philosophy, economics, politics, sociology, geography, anthropology, ecology and other disciplines, which relate to the present and future environment of human beings and other species. In doing so we aim to clarify the relationship between practical policy issues and more fundamental underlying principles or assumptions.

    Environmental Values has an impact factor (2015) of 1.311.
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