Olaf

Brazil: Seminar on Culture and Sustainable Development

This post comes to you from Culture|Futures

eu-brasil-homepageWithin the framework of the Joint Programme ‘EU-Brazil Sector Dialogues’, the Ministries of Culture and Planning, Budget and Management will hold a seminar on Culture and Sustainable Development, which will take place from 21 to 23 May 2013, in Brasilia, Brazil.

The seminar aims to strengthen the role of culture as a catalyst for global governance as well as to promote the importance of culture for sustainable development, exploring the three axes of this concept — social, economic and environmental.

The event will have three discussion tables, which will debate the contribution of culture to each of these three axes. These tables will be composed by distinguished guests from the European Union and Brazil, with recognized experience in the academic field, in public administration or in cultural production. At the closing session, there will be a moment to reflect on the relevance of culture as a fourth pillar of sustainable development, and how cultural cooperation between the EU and Brazil can strengthen the culture in global governance.

In order to enhance the quality of this dialogue, Olaf Gerlach-Hansen of Culture|Futures has been invited to take part in this seminar as a speaker who will address the theme ‘Culture and Environment’.

Programme description
The development of any culture arises from the constant interaction between the environment and human needs. As cultural identity and social stability may be strongly influenced by environmental conditions, cultural factors may influence consumption behaviors and attitudes related to environmental management. Therefore, culture and cultural diversity are key pieces for attitude changes towards environmental values.

On issues ranging from the erosion of biodiversity to climate change, cultural diversity has an important role to play in the way it addresses the current ecological challenges and ensure the future of sustainable environmental. In order to face the current ecological challenges, primarily technical and scientific responses are usually sought. However, the recognition that cultural practices are intimately linked to environmental integrity has been greater than ever.

There is an interdependence between biological diversity and cultural diversity, although is of little knowledge in what degree they relate. It goes far beyond what is commonly perceived in common sense. The reciprocity between both elements is clear: many cultural practices come, in its existence and expression, from certain specific elements of biodiversity. In a similar way, important sets of biological diversity are developed, maintained and administered by specific cultural groups, whose cultural aspects are the core of this special management practices.

The way of life of the majority of indigenous people embodies biodiversity. The cultural and religious beliefs, and spiritual values of these traditional societies, often have the effect of preventing predatory exploitation of resources and ensure the viability of the ecosystems on which they depend on.

The traditional indigenous practices of management and use of environmental resources, including construction techniques, represent a more sustainable way of land use, consumption and production, and also contribute to food security and access to water. These practices are based on a knowledge developed after centuries of adaptation. Therefore the concept of sustainable use of biological diversity — which is one of the three objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity — is inherent in the indigenous and traditional society’s value systems.

Culture|Futures is an international collaboration of organizations and individuals who are concerned with shaping and delivering a proactive cultural agenda to support the necessary transition towards an Ecological Age by 2050.

The Cultural sector that we refer to is an interdisciplinary, inter-sectoral, inter-genre collaboration, which encompasses policy-making, intercultural dialogue/cultural relations, creative cities/cultural planning, creative industries and research and development. It is those decision-makers and practitioners who can reach people in a direct way, through diverse messages and mediums.

Affecting the thinking and behaviour of people and communities is about the dissemination of stories which will profoundly impact cultural values, beliefs and thereby actions. The stories can open people’s eyes to a way of thinking that has not been considered before, challenge a preconceived notion of the past, or a vision of the future that had not been envisioned as possible. As a sector which is viewed as imbued with creativity and cultural values, rather than purely financial motivations, the cultural sector’s stories maintain the trust of people and society.
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Climate change = culture change: the hugeness of the challenge


We tend to talk about the idea of cultural change without thinking through what that means. The size of the job of retooling society to achieve an ecological age by 2050  is immense.

Emerging from the 20th century, it’s hard not to see this as a fundamentally Orwellian task.  However, if we do embrace the idea that culture has a responsiblity to move forwads, we have to start thinking in practical cutural realities. I recommend reading the working paperCulture|Futures Cultural Transformations for a Cultural Age by 2050 edited by Olaf Gerlach-Hansen which was released yesterday. It begins the ambitious process of evaluating if we even have the means by which we get from here to there.

The degree and scope of the cultural challenge is … exacerbated by how little time we have to bring about change. The transformation must be completed globally in 40 years, which in terms of comprehensive cultural transformations is an extremely short period – just a generation or two at most.

The time factor adds to the number of challenges concerning identity, lifestyle and habits to be addressed, since the entire world will vividly remember its old version, while developing the new.

That’s only a quick flavour of the paper which served as a working document to kickstart yestereday’s symposium…

Download the PDF [2.43MB] here.

Illustration: Glowing Climate

Go to RSA Arts & Ecology