The Traditional Ecological Knowledge Conundrum


Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) is often seen as a positive and important characteristic of local and indigenous peoples. Ensuring the inclusion of TEK into social-ecological research is gaining ever more attention. However, less attention has been given to understanding why TEK is being maintained.

In their recent paper, Hartel, Fischer, Shumi, and Apollinaire (2023) explain why TEK continues to exist and discuss what they term “the TEK conundrum”.

First off, what exactly is TEK? It has been defined as a cumulative body of knowledge, practice, and belief, evolving from adaptive processes and handed down through generations by cultural transmission, about the relationship of living beings (including humans) with one another and with their environment.

Hartel et al. (2023) focused on rural systems in their quest to understand when TEK has been sustained. What they found were four different system states under which TEK exists today.

The first state is where…

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