Selling Ice-cream to Eskimos: Can Communities Sustain without Sustainable Development Goals? by Evrim Ölçer Özünel


Since the 1970’s the sustainable development has been an important subject for UNESCO. Several expert meetings and gatherings have been organized and declarations and reports written. However, after establishing of the post-2015 Agenda for Sustainable Development, various sectors of UNESCO began to deal with the issue in concerning community participation and environmental sustainability, inclusive social cohesion and the economic aspects of sustainable development. Especially for the 2003 Convention on the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage, sustainable development became essential. Among other interrelated aspects of sustainable development, environmental sustainability is the core of intangible cultural heritage. As is stressed in reports of UNESCO-ICH, environmental sustainability requires ensuring a stable climate, sustainably managing natural resources and protecting biodiversity. These, in turn, depend on improved scientific understanding and knowledge sharing about climate change, natural hazards, the space environment and natural resource limits. Strengthening resilience among vulnerable populations in the face of climate change and natural disasters is essential to limiting their human, social and economic costs. The aforementioned lines show us how environmental sustainability is important for intangible cultural heritage studies. We know that traditional knowledge, values and practices accumulated and renewed across generations as part of intangible cultural heritage have guided human societies in their interactions with the surrounding natural environment for millennia. As it is put forward in many research studies today, the contribution of intangible cultural heritage to environmental sustainability is recognized in many fields, such as biodiversity conservation, sustainable natural resource management and natural disaster preparedness and response. However, it is not always possible to align local knowledge with those set out in theory. Often local practices remain in the shadow of fancy theories especially concerning with the local traditional knowledge. In this context we will discuss modern theories of environmental sustainability, together with the problems arising from local practices. We will try to reveal contradictions between modern sustainable development discourses and local traditional knowledge with examples from the world and Turkey, like eco-farms or eco-tourism activities.