Culture is who we are and what shapes our identity. No development can be sustainable without including culture.
The protection, promotion and maintenance of cultural sustainability is vital for sustainable development that beneﬁts both present and future generations. Culture is an integral part of sustainable development; however the key challenge is the understanding of the relationships between culture and sustainability.
Culture plays an important role as a non-renewable resource that is a vital part of our cities; the adaptive re-using of the historic urban environment adds to the quality of life of their inhabitants by strengthening their sense of belonging, social unity and providing a pleasant environment that lessens excessive urbanisation.
The Pacific region, the richest in the world in terms of cultural diversity, holds one-third of all languages in the world. Cultural considerations should be integrated into sustainable urban and community planning. The Pacific is ahead of other regions in rethinking wellbeing and prosperity: culture has been important in this approach, now all it needs is for it to be nurtured.
Communities, through their traditional knowledge and values and local sovereignty approach, understand their rights and responsibilities with respect to their environment, social stability and towards each other.
Most land across the Pacific is held by communities and not through private property. This has prevented the food poverty and extreme inequality seen in many other parts of the developing world. It has enabled women and men to draw on the environment for medical, housing, and expressive purposes, thereby continuing to foster agro biodiversity, and allowing communities to enjoy leisure time.
Due to increased urbanisation, imported unhealthy foods and increasingly sedentary lifestyles, life expectancy rates have dropped. Cultural food production and preparation, which preserve and improve diversity, including organic farming, provide healthy diets. Community arts and sports (dance, games, and communal fishing practices) provide healthy practices.
Pacific cities contain ‘old’ heritage, colonial heritage and increasing arts offerings. All are crucial to attracting responsible tourism. Cultural heritage, particularly cultural landscapes and historic cities, can make a signiﬁcant contribution to environmental sustainability.
Culture contributes directly to employment. Most Pacific countries do not measure cultural employment. Cultural and creative industries represent one of the most rapidly expanding sectors in the global economy with a growth rate of 6.9 per cent in Oceania. Artist, cultural producers, and entrepreneurs are direct active contributors to Pacific economies and cultural events create indirect economic activities.
Many cultural activities take place in the informal economy – the subsistence economy is based on cultural knowledge and practices. If one considers remittances and traditional social security are basically driven by cultural factors, the relationship between poverty prevention and reduction and culture is obvious.
Culture indeed has a role to play towards achieving a sustainable environment because culture is a key element in the concept of sustainable development; it frames people’s relationships and attitudes towards both the built and the natural environment. Cultural value shape peoples way of life and therefore has the potential to bring about the change in behaviour and attitude needed to ensure the achievement of sustainable development.
Sustainability efforts that once were characterised by environmental, social, and economic issues only now see the inclusion of culture as a holistic beneﬁt to sustainable development.