Listening to elders: birds and forests as intergenerational links for nurturing social-ecological memory in the southern Andes

Ibarra, José Tomás; Barreau, Antonia; Pessa, Natalia; Caviedes, Julián


Over recent decades, people and particularly children are interacting less and less with biodiversity. This ongoing alienation of humans from nature, so called “extinction of experience”, is having negative consequences on biodiversity conservation. We argue that possible drivers of this shift, such as technological progress and sedentary habits, not only produce a loss of engagement with local biodiversity; they also trigger a cycle of detachment of children from the experience of elders. Elders fill a special role in social-ecological communities. They serve as stewards of knowledge, intertwined with practice and beliefs, of long-term changes in the territory. Elders help link individuals to the broader community as a whole, connecting the past with the future, and thus act as the foundation of social-ecological memory. We present an ongoing project aiming to articulate intergenerational dialogues between children and elders in three rural Mapuche indigenous and peasant schools (~90 children) of La Araucanía Region, Andes of southern Chile. To facilitate these dialogues, we use birds and forests as the foundation of local narratives about long-term and large-scale changes in the territory over generations. We have developed a 5-step cycle including 1. Natural history workshops; 2. Children led guided grand tour interviews with their parents and grandparents; 3. Systematization, analysis and illustration of narratives; 4. Intergenerational “Dialogues of Memory”; and 5. Communication to the broader community. We found that birds, forests, elders, and the social-ecological memory they carry, are imbricated in complex networks of environmental, social, psychological, political and cultural practices. It is through nurturing social-ecological memory that children will engage with their local biological and cultural (biocultural) heritage. We conclude that elder experience should be honored so as to help counteract further “extinction of biocultural experience” and build resilient communities.

Más información

Editorial: International Society of Ethnobiology (ISE)
Fecha de publicación: 2018
Año de Inicio/Término: 7 al 10 de agosto de 2018
Idioma: Inglés