The close interaction between nature and human society has been the basis of life for cultures worldwide over many generations. Indigenous tribes, such as the Yukuna living along the Mirití River in the Colombian Amazonia, view their world as the conjunction of all biophysical, biological, and cultural elements. They have a “humanized” view of the forest, in which all the elements are closely connected, and they see themselves as the guardians of the spirits contained in plants, animals, and minerals (van der Hammen 1992).
In recent years, more and more people around the globe have been facing environmental problems as part of everyday life, and many of us have seen changes within our lifetimes. Access to clean water is increasingly difficult, the air in our cities is increasingly polluted, forests are being cut down, and some species are becoming increasingly rare or extinct (WRI 1996). As pressures on natural resources have increased and environmental degradation has become evident, public awareness has increased to an all-time high, and the interdependence of human society and our natural environment is widely accepted.
Environmental issues have become important in local, national, and international agendas, and decision-makers are facing the challenge of designing and implementing policies that achieve an adequate balance between environmental, economic, and social goals. Although much progress has been made in agriculture, transportation, and energy (Dower and others 1997), we are still seeing a steady decline in biological diversity worldwide.
One important reason for the decline is the gap that still exists between scientists and decision-makers. On the one hand, scientists are not providing the