Sustainability scientists demand greater use of indigenous knowledge

2020-01-28 According to recent research, science neglects the contributions of indigenous peoples and local communities.

Lüneburg. Researchers at Leuphana University of Lüneburg and Stockholm University have now examined the role knowledge of indigenous peoples and local communities plays in researching change towards sustainability. They conclude, in a study recently published in the journal Ecology & Society, that this knowledge is usually only used to confirm and complement scientific findings. It is important, however, the authors argue, to understand social change towards sustainability from the perspective of indigenous peoples and local communities.

Their comprehensive study focused on the occurrence of indigenous and local perspectives when considering changes towards sustainability. They analysed 81 peer-reviewed articles to determine the current state of integration of these perspectives into the scientific discourse on sustainability. According to the study, in the literature examined, indigenous and local community knowledge was often only used to confirm and complement scientific knowledge regarding environmental, climate, socio-ecological, and species changes.

"We registered a very scientific, positivist and Western understanding of how to make our society more sustainable. Cleaner technologies, CO2 reduction and renewable energies are therefore often the focus of attention," says David P. M. Lam, lead author of the study. It has long since been recognised, however, that it is the attachment to and attitude towards nature that must change. "Indigenous peoples and local communities have very different relationships with nature, which can complement our scientific understanding of a more sustainable society. “

The authors conclude by stressing the necessity to include different types of knowledge - not only scientific knowledge - in order to achieve a more just and sustainable society.

Original publication:
Lam, D., E. Hinz, D. Lang, M. Tengö, H. von Wehrden, and B. Martín-López. 2020. Indigenous and local knowledge in sustainability transformations research: a literature review. Ecology and Society 25(1):3.