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  • Author: Miloslav Lapka x
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Any Lesson from the History of Sustainable Development?

Have we still got time for sustainability and reasonable application of ideas of sustainable development? It has been just over twenty years since the Brundtland Commission Report but, taken as an axiological term; sustainable development resonates with older historical horizons. At the heart of a long running history we are beginning to articulate more or less sustaining relationships between man and nature. We have described the (human) needs in the environmental, economic and social dimension of sustainable development to show some amazing shift in perception of sustainable development from local to global level. We are convinced that historical lesson of sustainable development shows there is no more time for sustainability, but time for SOStainability. Our proposed S-O-S in SOStainability means Save Our Sustainability! SOStainability represents the need to end the compromise between economic development and natural life supporting systems.


The paper explains the concept of contemporary cultural ecology, a scientific approach reflecting the relationship between human society and natural environment. This approach is used by the scholars of Faculty of Arts at Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic. Special attention is paid to the links between cultural ecology and landscape ecology, interdisciplinary study of biophysical as well as societal driven processes and patterns in landscapes.

We present important disciplines of social sciences that focused on the relationship of humans and environment, and which inspired our concept of cultural ecology. The first human ecology appears in the 1920’s in Chicago. Human ecology of Robert E. Park and his colleagues was mostly aimed at urban sociology. A totally different approach is represented by cultural ecology of Julian Steward, who created it as an anthropological sub-discipline stressing the adaptive function of culture. Social ecology of Murray Bookchin brought more philosophy and social activism into the discussion. In the 1970’s human ecology presented by Gerald Young and environmental sociology of William Catton and Riley Dunlap got environmental factors back to the studies of modern complex societies.

Apart from the sources of inspiration mainly from the US, we also briefly summarize Czech disciplines and scholars investigating the human-nature relationship, e.g. social ecology of Bohuslav Blažek, concentrating mostly on rural areas or the sociological approach towards environmental problems of Jan Keller.

Furthermore, four constitutive principles of today’s cultural ecology are discussed. These include: 1) focus on the problems of present times instead of escapes into the past or the future, 2) integrative approach which is aware of the pitfalls of inter- or transdisciplinarity, 3) cultural core of society-environment relationships, i.e. reflection on the societyenvironment relationship through culture, and 4) dialogue between human (society) and environment (nature).

Finally, the landscape as an object of study of cultural ecology is briefly discussed. We conclude that cultural ecology is a broad approach, stimulating discussions among various academics rather than a well-defined rigorous scientific discipline. We believe this to be the benefit of cultural ecology, which can foster illuminating discussions about important environmental issues.