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Open Access Publications from the University of California

World Cultures eJournal

UC Irvine

Care for the Soil and Live Respectfully: A Cultural Model of Environmental Change in Andean Northern Ecuador


This paper proposes a hypothesis for a cultural model in Cotacachi, Ecuador that contains both 1) causality that occurs in nature, and 2) dimensionality of the essence of life. At the foundation of this research—of exploring humans, plants, animals, the supernatural, weather, and features of the landscape/environment—the question was: In the minds of our informants, of what does Nature’s core consist when considering the six domains we chose. In this case, preliminary results suggest that Nature can exist without cities as part of the core, and Nature can exist without the Christian God at its core. This splitting of the spirit world between Christian spirits and Mother Nature (and other spirits), as well as the splitting of humans into urbanites and rural dwellers undoubtedly creates some cognitive dissonance, and may partially be influenced by the common Christian and Western/urban dualisms. However, these differentiations between kinds of spirit worlds and kinds of human worlds also gives the opportunity for people to be able to switch from one life to another, or to identify their existence with the cultural model that is convenient or appropriate at a given time. This perhaps occurs in many or all societies, but may also be indicative of the social and ecological changes these informants are experiencing.

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