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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Becoming indigenous : measurable and immeasurable values in ecosystem-based management Haggan, Nigel


This dissertation follows the trajectory of fisheries management in British Columbia from a period prior to European contact when Aboriginal people encountered limits, learned to live within them and indeed enhance productivity of lands and waters. The diversity of ecological contexts and human experience created a rich diversity of eco-social-spiritual communities, sustained by the interweaving of scientific, economic, social, spiritual and aesthetic values. Since then, fisheries managed primarily for commodity value have depleted marine life, while the growth of other economic sectors has transformed ‘fisheries’ from a mainstay of culture and existence to a tiny fraction of BC’s economy as measured by GDP. Globally, depletion and chronic undervaluing have prompted leading marine scientists, conservationists and others to call for a sea or ocean ethic. A literature review reveals a strong public demand for inclusion of immeasurable values between the lines of the ecological economics literature and in declarations from leading scientists and world religions, but there is no coherent way to implement it. A research project using Q methodology indicates that the public demand for inclusion of a spiritual dimension holds for a wide cross-section of people engaged in the governance, management and use of BC’s marine environment. The dissertation outlines a concept of the secular sacred based on a spirituality of dedicated attention to relationships. Dedicated attention confers the knowledge to enhance relationships that contribute to flourishing and unravel those that are destructive. The secular sacred can draw on the moral authority of science to report objectively on large-scale relationships, the moral authority of Aboriginal and local people at local scale, the moral authority of ordinary people committed to flourishing of people, species and places, the moral authority of religion in terms of gratitude, generosity, compassion, love and justice and the moral authority of artists who can represent complexity and tension and point ways to sustainability which words cannot. Drawing on multiple sources of knowledge and authority without belonging to any of them, the secular sacred opens the door to transformative change in and beyond British Columbia.

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