Cultural Severance and the Environment

The Ending of Traditional and Customary Practice on Commons and Landscapes Managed in Common

  • Ian D. Rotherham

Part of the Environmental History book series (ENVHIS, volume 2)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-x
  2. Setting the Scene on Cultural Severance and its Implications

  3. Case Studies of Cultural Landscapes from Around the World

  4. The History and Use of Landscape Commons

  5. Issues and Approaches for Future Commons and Cultural Landscapes

  6. Conclusions and Overview: The Implications of Severance for Future Landscapes

  7. Back Matter
    Pages 443-447

About this book


A standpoint of many of the contributions is that it is important or even vital to understand the past, our history, if we are to address effectively future environmental challenges. Often, this is not the case, since the environment and nature, are treated as ‘natural’ rather than eco-cultural. Issues of common ownership and rights to natural resources present major challenges in the contemporary global world and the market forces of capital driven economics. Yet the long-term consequences, of the separation or severance of people from nature, are tangible and potentially disastrous at many levels. However, most contemporary actions towards conservation and sustainability fail to address this fundamental relationship between communities and local environments. This reflects perhaps, the ethos of Hardin’s 1960s ‘Tragedy of the commons’ and from this perspective the chapters in this volume challenge such precepts and assumptions and through this, raise new and critical paradigms.

In recent years, researchers have turned their attention to issues of landscape change and the eco-cultural nature of the environment. Combined with the impacts and effects of cultural severance, the break between local people and their environmental resources, the cultural nature of landscape is now better understood. However, the implicit importance and significance for conservation of biodiversity, of heritage and consequently for activities such as tourism, are only just receiving wider recognition. The implications of widespread landscape abandonment, rural depopulation, urbanisation, and severance, are dramatic and sometimes stark, with wildfires raging, ecology often in free-fall, and local communities and their traditions displaced. 

A first step with all these landscapes is to recognise both the important sites and the critical issues. Then, appropriate protection and conservation must be determined and applied. Finally, there is the potential to develop new and extended commons as part of a landscape approach to future conservation. However, the cultural past, together now with issues of cultural severance, present enormous challenges for the integration of this knowledge into visions of future sustainable landscapes. Not least of these challenges is the loss of indigenous cultural and traditional knowledge, without which, much future conservation action is jeopardised. This book is intended to raise awareness, to stimulate further discuss, debate and research, and to then turn dialogue into action.


Biodiversity Commons Cultural Landscapes Cultural Severance Traditional

Editors and affiliations

  • Ian D. Rotherham
    • 1
  1. 1., Faculty of Development & SocietySheffield Hallam UniversitySheffieldUnited Kingdom

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