Conservation and Society

: 2022  |  Volume : 20  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 278--279

Biocultural approaches could aid convivial conservation

Mark R Herse 
 Conservation Ecology Program, School of Bioresources and Technology, King Mongkut's University of Technology Thonburi, Bangkok, Thailand

Correspondence Address:
Mark R Herse
Conservation Ecology Program, School of Bioresources and Technology, King Mongkut's University of Technology Thonburi, Bangkok

How to cite this article:
Herse MR. Biocultural approaches could aid convivial conservation.Conservat Soc 2022;20:278-279

How to cite this URL:
Herse MR. Biocultural approaches could aid convivial conservation. Conservat Soc [serial online] 2022 [cited 2022 Oct 6 ];20:278-279
Available from:

Full Text

Büscher and Fletcher (2019, 2020) recently proposed 'convivial conservation' as a revolutionary approach to environmental governance based on the pluralistic social philosophy of Illich (1973). Büscher and Fletcher (2019, 2020) assert that 'mainstream conservation' has failed to prevent or slow escalating global environmental crises because it is grounded in false human-nature dichotomies and exploitative (neo)colonial and capitalist political economies which are inherently unsustainable and unjust. Furthermore, they assert that two radical offshoots of mainstream conservation, 'neo-protectionism' and 'new conservation science', are also deeply flawed; neo-protectionism embraces human-nature dichotomies and calls for more protected areas (e.g. 'Half Earth' and '30 by 30' proposals), while 'new conservation science' embraces capitalism and calls for more commodification of nature (e.g. carbon credit schemes, corporatised tourism). Breaking away from these ideas, the authors call for the proposed alternative, convivial conservation, defined by “a rejection of both nature-people dichotomies and a capitalist economic system demanding continual growth via intensified consumerism” (Büscher and Fletcher 2019, 286).

Convivial conservation has attracted considerable attention, as evidenced by the recent special issue in this journal titled “Exploring Convivial Conservation in Theory and in Practice”;year=2022;volume=20;issue=2;month=April-June . However, to my knowledge, little effort has been made to integrate or acknowledge a large body of overlapping work on biocultural approaches to conservation (e.g. Maffi and Woodley 2010; Gavin et al. 2015; Rozzi et al. 2018; Bridgewater and Rotherham 2019; Lyver et al. 2019; Merçon et al. 2019; Hanspach et al. 2020; Fernández-Llamazares et al. 2021), which are relevant to the convivial vision (Pettersson et al. 2022). Gavin et al. (2015, 141) defined biocultural approaches to conservation as “actions made in the service of sustaining the biophysical and sociocultural components of dynamic, interacting and interdependent social-ecological systems”. These actions “comprise the diversity of life in all of its manifestations – biological, cultural, and linguistic – which are interrelated and likely co-evolved within a complex socio-ecological adaptive system” (Maffi and Woodley 2010, 5). Importantly, biocultural conservation rejects human-nature dichotomies and “emphasises interdependencies between biological and cultural diversity” (Gavin et al. 2015, 141). Moreover, biocultural conservation emphasises socio-economic diversity and opposes “the one-dimensional lifestyle of consumerism and accumulating capital” (Rozzi et al. 2018, 44), and could therefore be described as “beyond-capitalist” (see [Table 1] in Büscher and Fletcher 2019, 2020). Likewise, biocultural conservation recognises diverse worldviews and value-orientations, which distinguishes it from both neo-protectionism (focused on intrinsic values of biodiversity) and new conservation science (focused on instrumental values of biodiversity) (Gavin et al. 2018) and aligns it with convivial conservation. Above all, biocultural conservation depends on decision-making at local institutional levels and prioritises equitable human rights and environmental justice (Gavin et al. 2015; Rozzi et al. 2018).

Considering their mutual goal of developing adaptive frameworks to guide policymaking toward inclusive and just environmental governance and conservation (Gavin et al. 2015; Rozzi et al. 2018; Büscher and Fletcher 2019, 2020; Merçon et al. 2019), biocultural approaches could complement and enhance convivial approaches, and vice versa. For example, two of the five key elements of convivial conservation involve (1) “celebrating human and nonhuman nature” and (2) shifting “from protected areas to promoted areas” (i.e. “places where people are considered welcome visitors, dwellers or travellers rather than temporary alien invaders”) (Büscher and Fletcher 2019, 286–287). Lessons drawn from biocultural diversity, ethics, and heritage (Rozzi et al. 2018) could undoubtedly help to inform these elements of the convivial vision. Simultaneously, the critical political ecology perspective of the convivial vision, including its focus on organising (e.g. via the Convivial Conservation Coalition) to “directly [target] the extreme capitalist interests of the global elites” (Büscher and Fletcher 2019, 286), could help to transform unequal power relations that constrain biocultural approaches (Merçon et al. 2019). Overcoming barriers to inclusive and just environmental governance and conservation requires collective actions across many fronts (Kashwan et al. 2021), so I hope supporters of convivial conservation, biocultural conservation, and related community rights-based paradigms (e.g. Perfecto et al. 2019) will engage each other more as we work towards mutual goals.


1Bridgewater, P. and I.D. Rotherham. 2019. A critical perspective on the concept of biocultural diversity and its emerging role in nature and heritage conservation. People and Nature 1(3): 291–304.
2Büscher, B. and R. Fletcher. 2019. Towards convivial conservation. Conservation and Society 17(3): 283–296.
3Büscher, B. and R. Fletcher. 2020. The conservation revolution: radical ideas for saving nature beyond the Anthropocene. Verso Books.
4Fernández-Llamazares, Á., D. Lepofsky, K. Lertzman, et al. 2021. Scientists' warning to humanity on threats to Indigenous and Local Knowledge Systems. Journal of Ethnobiology 41(2): 144-169.
5Gavin, M.C., J. McCarter, A. Mead, et al. 2015. Defining biocultural approaches to conservation. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 30(3): 140–145.
6Gavin, M.C., J. McCarter, F. Berkes, et al. 2018. Effective biodiversity conservation requires dynamic, pluralistic, partnership-based approaches. Sustainability 10(6): 1846.
7Hanspach, J., L.J. Haider, E. Oteros-Rozas, et al. 2020. Biocultural approaches to sustainability: a systematic review of the scientific literature. People and Nature 2(3): 643–659.
8Illich, I. 1973. Tools for Conviviality. New York: Harper and Row.
9Kashwan, P., R.V. Duffy, F. Massé, et al. 2021. From racialized neocolonial global conservation to an inclusive and regenerative conservation. Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development 63(4): 4-19.
10Lyver, P.O'B., J. Ruru, N. Scott, et al. 2019. Building biocultural approaches into Aotearoa – New Zealand's conservation future. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand 49(3): 394–411.
11Maffi, L. and E. Woodley. 2010. Biocultural diversity conservation: a global sourcebook. London: Earthscan.
12Merçon, J., S. Vetter, M. Tengö, et al. 2019. From local landscapes to international policy: contributions of the biocultural paradigm to global sustainability. Global Sustainability 2: e7.
13Perfecto, I., J. Vandermeer, and A. Wright. 2019. Nature's matrix: linking agriculture, biodiversity conservation and food sovereignty (2nd ed.). London: Routledge.
14Pettersson, H.L., C.H. Quinn, G. Holmes, et al. 2022. “They Belong Here”: understanding the conditions of human-wolf coexistence in north-western Spain. Conservation and Society 20(2): 113–123.
15Rozzi, R., R.H. May Jr., F.S. Chapin III, et al. (eds.). 2018. From biocultural homogenization to biocultural conservation. Dordrecht: Springer.