Indigenous and traditional peoples, who often attribute a sacred quality to nature, have made major contributions to the enhancement and conservation of the world's biodiversity. Although this is increasingly recognised in international discourse, rights of these peoples to continue their traditional practices are threatened by the globalised economy. Likewise, science implicitly denies their contribution to biodiversity conservation and enhancement by referring to their lands as 'wild' or 'wilderness'. It also effectively undermines their rights by claiming that the biodiversity fostered by their traditional practices is a global resource. In order to counter these threats, we need, not only to strengthen the rights of indigenous and traditional peoples, but also to reverse global trends that substitute economic and utilitarian models for the holistic concept of the 'sacred balance'.