Where is goal 18? The need for biocultural heritage in the sustainable development goals

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On 25 September 2015, the seventieth session of the General Assembly in the United Nations approved new Sustainable Development Goals building upon the vision of the original Millennium Development Goals. I argue that this post-2015 agenda still neglects fundamental qualities of cultural sovereignty that are key to maintaining sustainable practices, values and lifestyle habits. No single goal emphasises the need to protect local ecological knowledge, cultural heritage and alternative economic practices - nor their interrelation with biodiversity - as a pathway to sustainability. The factors that threaten sustainable lifestyles remain a conspicuous absence in the goals. The article presents a thought experiment to provoke the addition of the 'inextricable link' of biological, cultural and linguistic diversity to the Sustainable Development Goals: the recognition and affirmation of biocultural heritage.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-80
JournalEnvironmental Values
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Sustainability
  • Biocultural heritage
  • Human-nature relationship
  • Local ecological knowledge
  • Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)


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