By acknowledging diversity, pluralism seeks to address the structural and relational nature of power and knowledge between varieties of socio-cultural groupings. In its diverse uses, at the core of the concept of pluralism is the idea that a multiplicity of perspectives informs the phenomena called ‘reality’. An enriched concept of pluralism, in its inclusiveness, is not an option, it is a necessity. It is a necessity because both ecological and cultural diversity are needed for the survival of life on this planet. Pluralism is more than enumeration of difference in species and cultures and more than celebration of this diversity. It is about engagement with complex and interacting systems that includes and addresses pressing issues such as energy sustainability, climatic change, sustainable livelihoods, food sovereignty, indigenous rights, and multiple ways of knowing.

At present, discussion of pluralism tends to be confined to the normative agenda of sustaining the myriad of cultural mosaics of human societies. Human cultures dynamically interact with multiple processes and systems such as the biosphere, lithosphere, and hydrosphere. It is in these interactions and across these systems that overarching issues of concern to humanity must be addressed. The mutual relationship between ecological and cultural diversity is largely unexplored. Nature and culture are seen to be mutually exclusive. Little effort has been made to construct a bridge between ecological and cultural diversity, or to incorporate both into a long-term historical framework that can form the basis for discussion. However, most indigenous communities and a growing number of scholars do not perceive a division between their culture and the environment which they inhabit.

In the context of dramatic sociocultural and environmental change, where humanity must contend with climatic variation, global economic uncertainty, and the competition for energy resources, our notion of pluralism must be expanded and enriched. Pluralism enriched by ecological and cultural diversity will intellectually anchor meaningful conversations between applied scholars and practitioners.