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Lewis and Clark College

Publication Date

Fall 2005

Program Name

China: Yunnan Province - Language and Cultures


During a lecture by Li Bo, of CBIK (the Center for Biodiversity and Indigenous Knowledge a Chinese NGO), I was given a glimpse into the role that culture plays within poverty alleviation and environmental conservation. While poverty alleviation aims to develop community economies, this goal is usually seen as being in conflict with environmental conservation because it requires the use of environmental resources. This is a common misperception. According to Gou Jing’s article Gateway between Culture and Nature, “man’s touch bestows nature with culture” (Guo Jing 12). The interaction between nature and humans is the foundation for culture and the point that transforms nature from meaningless to meaningful, simultaneously creating the circumstances for exploitation and reverence (12). This seemed to be the holistic key that could bring the two conflicting goals together harmoniously. Although I had a feeling that the empowerment and preservation of traditional culture could give synergy to poverty alleviation and environmental protection, I didn’t understand why, and the concept seemed very ethereal and hypothetical. I decided I would delve into the question by researching what seemed to be the most obvious correlation between culture and environmental protection: peoples’ traditional spiritual connection to their environment. After reading through projects already undertaken by previous SIT students I decided the perfect location for my research would be the Meili Snow Mountain range in the Diqing Tibetan autonomous prefecture of northwest Yunnan province. The American based NGO The Nature Conservancy has been working in the area for 5 years and heavily promotes the relationship between its environmental conservation work and Tibetan Buddhist notions of the sacred, as a major factor that influences the success of its program. After a bit of research Yubeng village appeared to be the ideal location. Yubeng is a remote town, which is considered the central village of the inner pilgrimage route of Mt. Kawagebo, one of the most important pilgrimages for Tibetans. Yubeng has been a major focus of The Nature Conservancy’s (TNC) work in the area because of its potential for successful ecologically friendly development due to its rich culture religious beliefs, potential for ecotourism, lack of infrastructure, amazing biodiversity due to its remoteness and wide range of ecosystems, and the threat of unmanaged and harmful development looming in the near future.


Economics | Growth and Development | Natural Resource Economics | Natural Resources Management and Policy


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