Different knowledge regimes and some consequences for sustainability

Sustainability was effectively put on the map in the Brundtland Report, Our Common Future (1987). According the report “sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. Further, it is argued that the environment is “something beyond physicality, to include social and political atmospheres and circumstances”. Despite the enthusiasm with which it was met, results have been disappointing. A partial explanation for the failure may be attributed to the differing interpretation of sustainability by the various actors. Another is the challenges inherent in the transfer of knowledge between different knowledge regimes. The politics of the Anhtropocene is fraught with both practical and ideological complications.

Based on my research on the global initiative Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Forest Degradation and with two local communities in southeast Asia, I shall critically examine why local knowledge and cultural practices fail to be accommodated in conservation projects. I shall also ask if local knowledge regimes and practices are capable of being generalized and integrated into global initiatives for a sustainable global future.