The importance of sacred natural sites Sacred natural sites often represent the highest human aspirations and spiritual values of any given culture. In many cases they also have a proven biodiversity conservation effect (Dudley et al, 2009). Mount Kailas in Tibet, for example, is the Axis Mundi, the centre and birth place of the entire world to Buddhists, Hindus and Jains and was also sacred to earlier indigenous spiritualities such as Bon shamanism (Bernbaum, 1997). Because sacred natural sites are central to many local communities’ daily practices such as agriculture, health care and education, they form a good starting point for conserving the many ecosystem services that they sustain. Many custodians of sacred natural sites also point to their importance as spiritual healing places. The Kogi, Arhu-aco, Wiwa and Kankuam of the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta in Colombia call their sacred mountain ‘The Hearth of the World’ which serves for healing the human relationship to the earth (Rodríguez-Navarro, 2000). Other custodians in the Altai Republic of the Russian federation point out that sacred sites are connected and serve as a worldwide network of places for the healing the energies of the earth (see Chapter 23). Environmental psychologists and other scientists also recognize sacred natural sites as places with special importance for peace keeping, conflict resolution and environmental decision making (Atran and Norenzayan, 2004; Atran et al, 2005; Knudtson and Suzuki, 1992). As such, sacred natural sites support the spiritual well-being that many people find in their relationship with nature.
|Title of host publication||Sacred Natural Sites|
|Subtitle of host publication||Conserving Nature and Culture|
|Editors||Bas Verschuuren, Robert Wild, Jeffrey McNeely, Gonzalo Oviedo|
|Publisher||Taylor and Francis|
|Publication status||Published - 2010|