“Those now being educated will have to do what we, the present generation, have been unable or unwilling to do: stabilise world population; stabilise and then reduce the emission of greenhouse gases; protect biological diversity; reverse the destruction of forests everywhere; and conserve soils. They must learn how to use energy and materials with great efficiency. They must learn how to utilise solar energy in all its forms. They must rebuild the economy in order to eliminate waste and pollution. They must learn how to manage renewable resources for the long run. They must begin the great work of repairing as much as possible, the damage done to Earth in the past 200 years of industrialisation. And they must do all this while they reduce worsening social and racial inequities. No generation has ever faced a more daunting agenda”. (Orr, 1994, p.26).

Most educationalists would recognised that Orr’s ‘conservation management curriculum’ should be at the centre of education at all levels, but it is still a peripheral rare and optional topic. Its promotion has been a consistent objective of UK conservationists since the late 1990s when the EU LIFE 'Community Environment Programme' funded a partnership between the UK Conservation Management System Partnership, the University of Ulster, the education department of the National Museum in Cardiff and a group of European/international industries. The aim was to evaluate the Consortium’s conservation management system as a tool for biodiversity management of industrial sites (BIAS). This work had an important educational component, which involved developing a knowledge framework for teachers and neighbourhood leaders to carry the Consortium’s conservation management system logic, now embedded in its CMSi software tool kit, from professional users into the community.

Since the BAIS project, with the help of sponsorships from Chevron/Texaco, this educational framework, under the name of cultural ecology, has been extended by the Going Green Directorate as a prototype online resource for teachers and community leaders. The data model, named 'cultural ecology' is based on the following four interrelated themes for living sustainably:
  • KARIC ‘keeping a resilience in community’ for living in socio-ecological systems which organise themselves in response to management actions;
  • KAROC 'keeping a rein on consumerism' for living with an ethic of production with moderation and neighbourliness;
  • KAROP 'keeping a reserve of production' for living with a renewable economy;
  • KARON 'keeping a richness of nature' for living harmoniously with ecosystems.

A brief historical timeline of how cultural ecology has developed as an online knowledge framework for living sustainably is given below.

Cultural ecology emerged as the idea for a new academic subject from student/staff discussions during a zoology field course on the Welsh National Nature Reserve of Skomer Island in 1971. It was enthusiastically taken up as the philosophical thread for an honours course in Environmental Studies organised in the University College of Wales, Cardiff, during the 1970s. This course integrated the inputs from eleven departments, from archaeology, through metallurgy, to zoology.

Late in the decade this course was evaluated by a group of school teachers under the auspices of the University of Cambridge Local Examination Syndicate (UCCLES), and emerged as the subject 'natural economy' (the organisation of people for production). Natural economy was launched as a new international subject by UCCLES to fulfil their need for a cross-discipline arena to support world development education.

It was disseminated throughout Europe as part of the EC’s Schools Olympus Broadcasting Association (SOBA) for distance learning. It was also published as a central component of a cultural ecology model of Nepal through a partnership between the University of Wales, the UK Government Overseas Development Administration and the World Wide Fund for Nature, with a sponsorship from British Petroleum.

During the 1980s, an interoperable version of natural economy for computer-assisted learning was produced in the Department of Zoology, Cardiff University, with a grant from DG11 of the EC. This work was transferred to the Natural Economy Research Unit (NERU) set up in the National Museum of Wales towards the end of the decade.

In the 1990s NERU obtained a series of grants to integrate natural economy into the broader knowledge framework. For example, an EC LIFE Environment programme with the aim of producing and testing a conservation management system for industries and their community neighbourhoods, used cultural ecology as the wider knowledge framework. The R&D was carried out in partnership with the UK Conservation Management System Consortium (CMSC www.esdm.co.uk/cms), the University of Ulster and British industry.

2000-to the present
Version 2 of cultural ecology on-line is now being developed and evaluated by the 'Going Green Directorate' with the aim of giving the subject a wider international significance. One aim is to provide a web resource for education/training in conservation management (www.goinggreen.wikispaces.com). The other aim is to develop an education network to bring conservation management towards the centre of curricula at all levels of education.