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ENGAGEMENT BLOGEngagement Blog
- University of Memphis and the Sierra Club Team up to Promote Education, Advocacy & Activism at Grassroots Environmental Conference
- Water in Lesotho: Contradiction, Disjuncture, Death
- The Highway Re-Route Movement of Trinidad and Tobago: From Dependency to Democracy
- Molly Doane’s “Stealing Shining Rivers”: Transnational Conservation meets a Mexican Forest
- Global Environmental Winds: The Chinese legacies of an ostensibly North American creation
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- 2015 RAPPAPORT STUDENT PRIZE COMPETITION
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- Press Release: Julian Steward Prize
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- Environmental Anthropology Engaging Ecotopia: Bioregionalism, Permaculture, And Ecovillages
- Spiritual Ecology: A Quiet Revolution
- How Will New Models Shape Our Research?
- Bring heritage breeds to holiday table
- Forest and Labor in Madagascar: From Colonial Concession to Global Biosphere
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Author Archives: Noah Theriault
Every year in July a small group of people gather on the summit of Ontake-san, a 3,067-meter volcanic mountain in the central Japanese prefecture of Nagano, to ceremoniously open it for the summer season. They do so with prayers to the gods, or kami, who dwell on the mountain. After Shinto priests have welcomed the kami with chants and offerings, representatives of several local constituencies come forward to offer prayers; included among them are employees of Japan’s national Forestry Agency and officials from local government and business offices.
Protecting Cultural Environments in Northern Wisconsin: Anthropology’s Contribution to a Tribal Initiative
By Joe Quick, with contributions from Larry Nesper In 2012, the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians engaged research specialists working in several different fields, including anthropology, the physical sciences, and law. Our assignment was to assemble a report to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) about air quality on the tribe’s reservation in northern Wisconsin. With this report, the tribe aims to redesignate its reservation’s air quality from Class II to Class I under the “Prevention of Significant Deterioration” provisions of the federal Clean Air Act. The air on the reservation today is too clean to be classified as Class II, and redesignation as Class I will help the tribe ensure that this status is formally recognized and protected. In fact, the tribe first initiated this process in the 1990s, but suspended its work due to the anticipated legal costs that it would incur if the redesignation were challenged by the State of Wisconsin. Now that five other tribes in the United States—including the Potawatomis in Wisconsin—have set a precedent by achieving this same redesignation, Bad River decided to reinitiate the process.
By Janis Bristol Alcorn “... In other words, the way that bureaucracies work is by bleaching out local context and coming up with big simplifications.” – Andrew Mathews, as quoted in his January 2013 interview with ENGAGEMENT I would counter by positing that good bureaucracies do not bleach out local context. Instead, they create big, simplified umbrellas that cloak the complex, dynamic range of local circumstances and thereby give the staff of government bureaucracies the space to address local circumstances despite changes in political direction. I base this assertion on twenty-five years’ experience working with USAID, and on the literature on good governance.
Americans live in a settler colonial society, and this shapes how we understand and engage nature. In the vast expanse of slow-flowing water and drained agricultural lands known as the Florida Everglades, thinking about settler colonialism helps make sense of Burmese python hunts and Seminole water rights, of scientific restoration models and National Park policies. Doing so informs my own ethnographic research on the relationship between peoples’ sense of belonging and the ways that they value water in the Everglades.
Back in 2005, as Emory University embraced sustainability as part of a new strategic plan, it was the physicians on the visioning committee who insisted on including food as a priority. Recognizing that environmental, economic, health, and social justice concerns intertwined with food, the committee encouraged local sourcing of vegetables, fruits, dairy, and poultry from farms with sustainable certifications. Imported items (bananas, coffee, tea) could contribute to campus goals by embracing products with Fair Trade or organic certification.
Once a booming agricultural and factory town, Muncie, Indiana, is today a post-industrial rustbelt city grappling with questions about its economic and environmental futures. As heavy industries left town, Muncie’s economy has flagged, leaving some 24% of its residents at or below the poverty line. To make matters worse, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determined in 2007 that one-third of the city’s former industrial sites were brownfields that posed risks to human health and safety. In spite of these challenges, Muncie residents are transforming and revitalizing their city. In particular, they have shown renewed and growing interest in sustainably produced foods as a boon to overall health, safety and environmental restoration. Innovative partnerships have enabled Ball State University (BSU) professors and students to directly contribute to these community efforts. Inspired by Robert and Helen Merrell Lynd’s pioneering community study, Middletown, BSU professors and students are expanding this tradition of conducting engaged, local research to benefit the region. The result has been the transformation of former brownfields into public wetlands. Also through direct civic engagement, student volunteers have helped remove 70,000 pounds of trash from the White River watershed over the last six years. As significant as these restoration efforts are for the community, local residents are also finding ways to combine sustainable economic development with environmental restoration.
ENGAGEMENT editor Rebecca Garvoille recently caught up with Andrew S. Mathews, Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, to discuss his recent book, Instituting Nature: Authority, Expertise, and Power in Mexican Forests (2011, MIT Press), and its broader contributions to forest policy and socio-environmental justice debates in Mexico. This interview is the third installment in an ENGAGEMENT series exploring how environmental-anthropological book projects inspire meaningful engagements in study sites across the globe.
For the last fifteen years, I’ve worked as a volunteer – a citizen anthropologist – in the collaborative conservation movement sweeping across the American West. I co-founded the Arizona Common Ground Roundtable in 1997. For the next five years, we (the Roundtable) sponsored forums across the state to bring ranchers, environmentalists, and sportsmen together to talk about the future of Arizona’s wide-open spaces. We found our common ground by paraphrasing political analyst, James Carville: “It’s land fragmentation, stupid!” Then I chaired the Ranch Conservation Task Force of Pima County’s visionary Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan (SDCP), which seeks to conserve both biodiversity and working ranches around the Tucson metropolitan area. For the last decade, I have served on Pima County’s Conservation Acquisition Commission (CAC). The CAC provides recommendations to the Pima County Board of Supervisors on how to spend the $170 million in Open Space Bonds that voters approved in 2004 to support the SDCP.
Less than 300 miles northwest of New York City, in the Empire State’s Southern Tier region, is the small community of Endicott. Nestled along the Susquehanna River, it is known as the “Birthplace of IBM.” International Business Machines Corporation (IBM)—born of a marriage between the Computing, Tabulating, and Recording Company and the International Time Recording Company—opened its first plant in Endicott in 1924. From the 1920s to the 1970s, the IBM-Endicott facility figured centrally in electronic innovations, and the surrounding community enjoyed relative prosperity. Since the 1980s, however, the area has experienced steady decline due to IBM’s disinvestment in the Endicott facility and the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs.
The story of Wildgrass is one of organizational adaptation to the dynamism of present-day China’s politics and its rapidly changing social and environmental needs. After four years of working with the organization, I consider my roll in Wildgrass as more of an “exchange” than an “engagement” because of our reciprocal relations. We’ve shared knowledge and influenced one another on multiple levels, providing me a unique perspective to view changes in the organization over time.