Regulatory Function of Resource Limitation as a Bio-Cultural Framework for Humanity

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Marcus Lindholm:

"While humans transformed the environment into cultural landscapes, so did environments condense into cultural myths, narratives and archetypes. Mountains, cliffs, powerful predators, or charismatic birds populated the cognitive-cultural niche as archetypic myths, expressing notable human habits of relevance (Nazarea, 1999; Taylor & Lennon, 2011; Taylor, 2012). Human culture reorganized the environments, and these reciprocally reorganized human cultures. Crops, game, fish and landscape became personified cultural corner flags, warning, instructing and mediating rules for human behavior and resource use. Maize, along this bio-cultural transition zone, was not only a food item for the Maya culture, but also a cultural corner flag, encompassing "mythological origins, ethnic identification and very existence of the Mesoamerican people" (Staller, 2010, p.59). The regulatory function of resource limitation, which constitutes the core factor for adaptation by means of natural selection, is in Homo sapiens transformed into a bio-cultural framework, where local cultures were reshaped in accordance with the environment, and local nature was reshaped in accordance to the cultural habits. Heckenberger et al. (2007) claim that we need a concept of biodiversity that includes how humans locally enhanced biodiversity and habitat heterogeneity, and how the environment reciprocally influenced human culture. They suggest the concept of 'bio-cultural diversity', defined as "the way certain cultural and biological patterns are mutually constituted". The temporal concept would be bio- historical diversity, "to describe how this process unfolds over the long term" (p. 205). The bio-cultural diversity perspective, however, also reveals how premodern concepts differed from the present modern. Premodern cultures did not maintain a firm distinction between mind and body (Abram 1997). Hills, volcano, stars and animals did not symbolize spirituals or gods – they were gods, with strong and sometimes unpredictable wills. The Matsés people of the Amazon calls the rainforest Titá. But Titá is more than an ecosystem. It has soul and comprises powerful spiritual undertones, and the word may also mean 'mother'. The rainforest is at the same time a forest and a personality. Titá expresses variable moods and contact with her is achievable by means of hallucinogens. The rainforest does not symbolize a spirit – it is a spirit: "The Matsés talk about Titá as if it was a human. Titá could be happy and satisfied, and if so, the Matsés were alike. But Titá could sometimes be angry and sad, too, and in such cases, they were humble and aimed at appeasing her." (Krogh, 2006, p. 91; own transl.). When a game is felled, the act must be lamented to Titá, and another game cannot be felled before the animal spirit has been thanked and the bio-cultural relation reconciled, which is partly conceived through dreams. For the Matsés, deforestation is not a loss of 'resources', but just as much a loss of meaning (Jokic, 2015). To understand the concept of Titá presupposes that one overcomes the separation between physical object and its meaning. Arne Næss (1995) is transgressing the same distinction between object and meaning, when he claims that the mountain Hallingskarvet may be pleased by his presence (p.9).

In Europe, the bio-cultural interfaces began to break up during the Renaissance, before fully collapsing after the industrial revolution. To discuss the causes in full is beyond the scope of this article, but the bio-cultural interface eroded gradually, while the Cartesian object-meaning-distinction gained dominance."