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Suggested Citation:"7 Culture and Sense of Place." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. America's Geoheritage II: Identifying, Developing, and Preserving America's Natural Legacy: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26316.
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7

Culture and Sense of Place

“The places that we prize for their geographical attributes frequently have strong cultural attachments as well. We want to celebrate those connections,” said Daniel Tormey, Catalyst Environmental Solutions and planning committee member, during the webinar on this topic. These attachments derive from multiple cultures and ways of knowing, he added: “so another question comes up: Whose geoheritage and stories get told? And who participates once we have set aside areas?” Natalie Kehrwald, U.S. Geological Survey, said the focus group on this topic emphasized, “It’s important to remember that every single place has people connected to it. It is not only the physical location but the emotional attachments that people have.”

A SENSE OF PLACE

Beyond the scientific, educational, and economic values connected with geoheritage is a less tangible but powerful value articulated by Steven Semken, Arizona State University: a sense of place. He defined place as real or imagined and as “any locality we imbue with meaning based on individual or collective experience.” A place can have myriad meanings associated with it, as he illustrated with the Grand Canyon (see Box 5). The multiple values ascribed to the Grand Canyon or any other place can lead to dispute and negotiations, he commented. “People come to a place and they affix different kinds of meanings to it, and we are always negotiating which meanings are the ones that are brought to the fore,” he said.

Cultural landscapes are interwoven with natural landscapes of landforms, water, and ecosystems, he explained, quoting geographer Carl Sauer who wrote in 1925 that a landscape “may be defined as an area made up of a distinct association of forms, both physical and cultural.” The first cultural landscapes are those of indigenous people who lived sustainably for thousands of years in places, he said. As an example, Semken showed a map of the Grand Canyon area that, instead of being delineated with the commonly seen National Park Service boundaries, depicted traditional tribal areas. “That knowledge deserves to be foregrounded,” he said, although he also warned that some indigenous knowledge about place is not intended to be shared with outsiders.

A sense of place is “the set of all meanings and attachments held by an individual or group for any given place,” he explained, and he noted that sense of place has a robust theoretical geographic and psychological framework. He and other researchers study it through quantitative and qualitative methods that include surveys, direct observation of human interactions, interviews and focus groups, and analyses of works that people are inspired or asked to create, such as pictures or writing. Semken noted these studies have direct relevance to geoheritage. For example, connection to place motivates teachers to teach and students to learn; local context makes subject matter more relevant to minoritized learners; and a sense of place

Suggested Citation:"7 Culture and Sense of Place." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. America's Geoheritage II: Identifying, Developing, and Preserving America's Natural Legacy: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26316.
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correlates with pro-environmental and pro-social behaviors that foster interest in, care for, and sustainability of geoheritage and cultural resources.

Cultural heritage and geoheritage are consilient, he said, in that these parallel ways of knowing converge at a place. An increasing number of sites are drawing on these parallel ways of knowing in their interpretative materials, signage, and other activities, he noted, including the Grand Canyon, Hawai’i Volcanoes, and Petrified Forest National Parks. Publications authored or co-authored by indigenous authors have also interwoven geoscience with indigenous knowledge. Both formal and informal education contribute to place-based learning, he said.

Participants in the Geoheritage and Culture; Sense of Place; Indigenous Ways of Knowing; and Empowering Participation focus group emphasized the need to engage all stakeholders in the planning and design stages of geoheritage sites from the beginning, not as an afterthought. They especially underlined the need to be respectful of cultural traditions and sensitivities, to build relationships of trust, and to be sure that indigenous ways of knowing are incorporated into the planning as a central component.

Several focus groups reminded participants about the potential to include artists, musicians, authors, and others in geoheritage. “Most of us are inspired by emotions and sensory input,” commented Mogk. “We are missing an opportunity if we do not reach out to our friends in the arts and humanities. They know how to tell stories. They can be our best allies in getting our message out to diverse audiences in an evocative way.”

WHOSE GEOHERITAGE? WHOSE PLACE?

The focus group stressed that geoheritage has two components: “geo” and “heritage.” Kehrwald elaborated, “Traditionally, geoheritage has been skewed toward the ‘geo’ aspect, but ‘heritage’ is the cultural aspect, including art, psychology, and emotions.” Reflecting Semken’s comment above, however, she warned that while it is important to learn from others, knowledge is intellectual property; particularly in the case of indigenous knowledge, she said, “Be very careful that you are not taking knowledge that is not really yours to take and using it in ways that are not yours to be able to use.” Michael Phillips, Illinois Valley Community College, pointed out that the indigenous communities that have a stake in or knowledge about a particular place may include not only the people who are there now but also those who were displaced.

Semken pointed to the work of indigenous scientists who are developing and disseminating recommendations and guidelines to ethically and reciprocally engage with place. “There are already active indigenous geoscience scholars who have taken the lead in decolonizing geoscience, and we need to be turning to them rather than nonindigenous people trying to figure out how to do it for themselves,” he urged. As examples, he referred to Native American scholars Gregory Cajete, Daniel Wildcat, Robin Wall Kimmerer, Dominique David-Chavez, Darryl Reano, Ángel García, Karletta Chief, and Wendy Smythe, and to the Geoscience Alliance.1

Workshop participants also discussed populations who have had less access to geoheritage. Ideas to engage and empower underrepresented and minoritized groups in geoheritage initiatives include working with minority-serving institutions to involve students and

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1 See https://geosciencealliance.wordpress.com.

Suggested Citation:"7 Culture and Sense of Place." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. America's Geoheritage II: Identifying, Developing, and Preserving America's Natural Legacy: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26316.
×

faculty (see Box 3 in Chapter 5). According to Kehrwald, the focus group suggested fuller use of the requirement to show “broader impact” in federal funding proposals to provide local outreach and education to surrounding communities, not just as a “check off the box” in a proposal. Providing funding for lower-income people to travel to and participate in geoheritage programs has been successfully used, with examples noted in Juneau, Alaska, and Baltimore, Maryland.

But the Geoheritage and Culture; Sense of Place; Indigenous Ways of Knowing; and Empowering Participation focus group looked at factors beyond funding. “It is important to note that many underrepresented groups have historically never been made to feel welcome in the wilderness, and much of the geosciences is done in the backcountry,” she said. “This should not be overlooked as it can represent a barrier to all of the efforts that you are trying to make. How many will have the quality gear to have a pleasant experience? Common field techniques will need to be taught in the most basic sense, and mindfully for the beginner. You have to make the environment safe and welcoming so that a person who has been historically excluded can now ‘own’ their new identity as an outdoor person.”

A population that the focus group saw as a priority are people with disabilities who may have difficulty traveling to a site and/or experiencing it once there. The group noted that NPS has a set of directives and requirements to accommodate people with disabilities.2 The Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria and Inclusive Tourism movement also have guidelines relevant to accessibility in visiting geoheritage sites. A series of guiding questions to accommodate people with disabilities has been proposed by Scott Rains, an adventure traveler who uses a wheelchair.3 Adaptive recreation programs could also be useful partners in geoheritage initiatives. When physical visits are not feasible, making the experience available virtually was also mentioned as an option. As another resource, the International Association for Geoscience Diversity has as its mission to improve access and inclusion for people with disabilities in the geosciences.4

GEOETHICS

A group on Geoheritage and Ethics met during a networking session and shared thoughts during the final plenary. “Ethics should be a pillar of everything we do,” said Mogk. “This ranges in scale from personal to professional, societal, and ultimately planetary ethics.” He noted the group’s discussion about personal responsibilities led to a discussion about the ethics of collecting. “Should we or should we not make available locations of very special, perhaps one-of-a-kind outcrops? Social responsibility is another ethical concern in terms of sharing knowledge about resources and hazards. Ultimately, we have an ethical responsibility to the planet in terms of being stewards of the Earth to make sure we protect geoheritage for generations to come,” he said.

Mogk, Brilha, and Giuseppe Di Capua (National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology, Italy) are drafting a white paper on geoheritage and geoethics on behalf of the International Association for Promoting Geoethics. “Geoethics is an emerging topic in the scientific community,” Brilha said. “There are many connections between geoethics principles

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2 See https://www.tripsavvy.com/national-parks-for-disabled-visitors-3361905.

3 See https://www.slideshare.net/srains/scott-rains-on-geotourism-disability-1788384.

4 See https://theiagd.org.

Suggested Citation:"7 Culture and Sense of Place." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. America's Geoheritage II: Identifying, Developing, and Preserving America's Natural Legacy: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26316.
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and geoheritage. The white paper will give some perspectives about how we can deal with geoheritage in a geoethical way.”

Suggested Citation:"7 Culture and Sense of Place." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. America's Geoheritage II: Identifying, Developing, and Preserving America's Natural Legacy: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26316.
×
Page29
Suggested Citation:"7 Culture and Sense of Place." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. America's Geoheritage II: Identifying, Developing, and Preserving America's Natural Legacy: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26316.
×
Page30
Suggested Citation:"7 Culture and Sense of Place." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. America's Geoheritage II: Identifying, Developing, and Preserving America's Natural Legacy: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26316.
×
Page31
Suggested Citation:"7 Culture and Sense of Place." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. America's Geoheritage II: Identifying, Developing, and Preserving America's Natural Legacy: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26316.
×
Page32
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America is endowed with places that embody a rich geoheritage, from sites where indigenous people subsisted for millennia, to mines that furnished the raw materials that built U.S. industry, to mountain ranges and river gorges with unparalleled recreational opportunities, to field sites where students can truly understand a geological process, to places of aesthetic or spiritual value, and many more across all states and territories. In order to assess the status of geoheritage and the activities of its practitioners in the United States in light of social, political, and environmental changes over the past ten years, the National Academies of Sciences Engineering and Medicine convened a series of virtual webinars and a workshop. From September to December 2020, a Distinguished Speakers Webinar Program composed of eight webinars provided an overview of geoheritage initiatives, as well as focused presentations on geoheritage related to federal and state lands, cultural heritage, education, research, and economic development and geotourism. In January 2021, 101 land managers, state geologists, educators, researchers, and members and staff of professional societies and nongovernmental organizations participated in a virtual writing workshop to aggregate and organize community input on strategies and best practices in developing geoheritage sites across the United States. The participants were divided into focus groups that roughly aligned with the topics explored in the fall 2020 workshops. The groups worked synchronously and asynchronously over the course of a week, then presented their ideas in a plenary session. This publication summarizes the presentations and discussion of the webinars and workshop.

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