Water, Cultural Diversity, and Global Environmental Change. Emerging Trends, Sustainable Futures?

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Courtesy of IWA Publishing

This book tries to respond to a series of core questions, including among others: What are the roles that water plays in sustaining diverse forms of human sociocultural life? What roles do diverse human societies and cultures play in valuing, managing, preserving and using water and its associated ecosystems? What are the consequences of these resource relations in sustaining, or undermining the means to sustain, the viability of human communities and their environments? The traditional knowledge, stewardship and management systems, and technologies developed by different peoples typically reflect the deep relationship between biological and cultural diversity. Might these time-tested strategies help meet the complex needs of a changing environment? The book is divided into five parts. Although their themes, interests, and geographic locations intersect and overlap, each of the parts has a particular orientation. Part I explores water's fundamental place in life. The case studies and brief vignettes, conceptual essays and graphic imagery of this Part articulate the 'culture of water' and the environmental consequences of human relationships with water. Part II considers the 'culture of water' through an explicit focus on traditional ecological knowledge and water resource management: approaches that have historically served to sustain the lifeways of indigenous groups and ethnic minorities. Part III examines current patterns of water resource management in various ecoregions and geopolitical contexts. It considers problematic contexts where water resource development and management have undermined the viability of culturally diverse groups (asking what are the lessons learned), as well as cases where water resource management has achieved sustainable societal goals by strengthening biocultural viability. Case studies explore problems such as access to clean water and environmental health, and the role of culture and power in shaping, and addressing, vulnerability. Part IV considers the changing and possible future dynamics of intersections between water, biodiversity, and cultural diversity, with a critical focus on the lessons learned from the past several decades of hydrodevelopment. This section asks 'what lessons can be gleaned from past experience, and how might these transform understandings of the cumulative effect and synergistic forces at work in hydrodevelopment?' Part V sketches out alternative scenarios for the future, arguing that a sustainable approach to water resource development must, first and foremost, be one that sustains the cultural and biological diversity of life. Contributions expand upon the case-study lessons with strategic recommendations for incorporating sociocultural perspectives into water resource management systems; and, with a more inclusive notion of sustainability, they address rights and entitlements to water for all human groups and all species, as well as reaffirming established stewardship principles and responsibilities.

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