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All over the world, rapid and fundamental human-made environmental changes are occurring. Correspondingly, a research focus in environmental management and sustainability science is placed on the interactions of society and environmental systems (Kates et al., 2001; Liu et al., 2007). However, despite wide consensus on the need to focus on human–nature relationships, there is much controversy about their concrete nature and how they should be conceptualised (Scholz & Brand, 2011).
We compare two approaches to the analysis and management of these relationships that are usually considered to be clearly distinct from each other. On one side is the resilience approach to social–ecological systems of the Resilience Alliance (2012), a highly influential approach in the currently emerging sustainability science. It is put forward as a novel, scientifically well-founded and unbiased, value-free approach with general applicability that is concerned with the goal to ensure sustainable development. On the other side is the original version of the cultural landscape concept, which forms the basis of classical geography and, for decades, has been very influential in nature conservation and landscape planning, particularly in Europe and possibly most strongly in Germany. This concept has been shown to be connected with a conservative ideal of the human–nature relationship and to be largely motivated by cultural, symbolic and aesthetic values of traditional cultural landscapes – notwithstanding that now it is often at odds with its supposed sustainability.
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