Cultural barriers in translating the notion of sustainability lead beyond scientific ideas of an environment as a domain detachable from human interactions, which is culturally alien to Himalayan villagers affected by conservation. The cosmological mindset of ‘naturalism’ is contrasted with evidence for ‘animist’ kinds of human–environmental relationships in the world of the Tamang. Their movement between ecological zones of juniper and palm brings dialogue and diplomacy in line with the cultures of power of the valley (mandala cosmologies of ‘analogism’). Tamang encounter conservation within a historical relation of being outsiders to the political and cultural mainstream, but aspects of territory, livelihood, and cultural sovereignty make them comparable with other groups of upland ‘Zomia’ in Southeast Asia. At the margins of effective state control, conservation is more than a concern for biodiversity and sustainability must negotiate the many natures of animist, analogical, and naturalist modes of environmental relationship.
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