Keywords: sustainable development, handicrafts, culture, Thailand, tourism, Chiang Mai, natural resources, restorative economy, urban sustainability, traditional knowledge, papermaking, laquerware
Culture, environment and livelihood: potential for crafting sustainable communities in Chiang Mai
Culture is touted as integral to the concept of sustainable development, yet most sustainable development efforts omit a cultural component. This paper targets traditional handicrafts as a potential cultural component for a sustainable development strategy. This paper analyses two of the traditional crafts of Chiang Mai, Thailand – saa papermaking and laquerware production – to identify the aspects of culture, environment and livelihood embedded in these crafts. The traditional production processes are diagrammed to illustrate the natural resource inputs and environmental impacts of these processes, as well as to identify spin-off economic activities from those same natural resources. The objective is to build a case for a culturally sensitive sustainable development that would revive traditional knowledge and skills, revitalise renewable natural resources and spawn new restorative economic activities that work in synergy with nature and culture.