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Science, Conservation, and National Parks$
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Steven R. Beissinger, David D. Ackerly, Holly Doremus, and Gary E. Machlis

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226422954

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226423142.001.0001

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The Spiritual and Cultural Significance of Nature: Inspiring Connections between People and Parks

The Spiritual and Cultural Significance of Nature: Inspiring Connections between People and Parks

(p.294) Fourteen The Spiritual and Cultural Significance of Nature: Inspiring Connections between People and Parks
Science, Conservation, and National Parks

Edwin Bernbaum

University of Chicago Press

This chapter explores various ways that the cultural and spiritual significance of nature can play a key role in addressing challenges that the US National Park Service faces in engaging people and diversifying its visitor base. It draws on case studies developing interpretative materials for national parks that evoked the cultural and spiritual meanings of natural features in mainstream American, Native American, Native Hawaiian, and other cultures around the world. Rather than simply conveying information, interpretation focused on enriching people’s experience and appealing to the cultural backgrounds of diverse ethnic groups in order to inspire deep-seated, sustainable motivations for supporting parks and protecting the environment. The chapter also discusses ideas for a new International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) project that brings international protected area managers together with representatives of indigenous traditions, mainstream religions, and the general public. Here the goal is to integrate the cultural and spiritual significance of nature into protected area management and governance. The chapter concludes with remarks on the need to supplement objective scientific knowledge with subjective personal knowledge that connects people with nature and inspires conservation.

Keywords:   conservation, culture, diversity, inspiration, interpretation, protected area management, public engagement, national parks, nature, spiritual

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