Engagement Blog

ENGAGEMENT is a blog published by the Anthropology & Environment Society featuring first-hand accounts by anthropologists and other social scientists who have been directly engaged in work on environmental problems. For more information on ENGAGEMENT or to submit a contribution, please contact blog editors Janna Lafferty (jlaff004@fiu.edu), Chris Hebdon (chris.hebdon@yale.edu) and Micha Rahder (mrahder@ucsc.edu).

Leslie Sponsel on Spiritual Ecology, Connection, and Environmental Change

ENGAGEMENT editors recently connected with Leslie Sponsel, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at the University of Hawai’i, to talk about his recent book, Spiritual Ecology: A Quiet Revolution (2012, Praeger), and its broader contributions to environmental movements and policy decisions around the world. This interview is the latest in an ENGAGEMENT series that explores how environmental-anthropological book projects have profound and important impacts on the world around us.
Posted in Engagement Blog | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Designing Sacred Lands

After four unsuccessful attempts, in June 2012 UNESCO approved a new World Heritage Cultural Landscape: the subaks and water temples of Bali. An innovative management plan empowers the elected heads of subaks and villages to manage the World Heritage as a Governing Assembly, with assistance from government departments. Implementation of this management system has been delayed, but it has been endorsed by UNESCO as a promising model for democratic adaptive management.
Posted in Engagement Blog | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off

O-yama: Mountain Faith and Uncertainty in Late Capitalist Japan

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.
Posted in Engagement Blog | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Making Peace with Nature: The Greening of the Korean Demilitarized Zone

By Eleana Kim, University of Rochester Through my ongoing research on the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), I am engaging with broader questions about the “nature” of militarized landscapes and the production of their ecological value. In this piece, I examine how South Korean state and NGO projects configure the DMZ as a unique site of biodiversity that could provide the basis for sustainable development and also peace on the Korean peninsula. These projects, however, often depend upon a branding of the DMZ as a bounded space of pristine nature, disregarding the more complex social and political landscapes of the inter-Korean border region, of which the DMZ is just one part. This tendency to fetishize the DMZ and its “nature,” moreover, disguises the ways in which global capitalism, development, and militarization are affecting other parts of the border region, areas where the majority of what is known of the “DMZ’s biodiversity” exists.
Posted in Engagement Blog | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off

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.
Posted in Engagement Blog | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Gathering Divergent Forest Honeys: Collections and Commodity Flows in the Philippines

By Sarah Webb When I began researching honey collecting in the Philippines, I never anticipated that making visual collections of objects and images associated with marketing honey was going to become a powerful way of stimulating discussion about my study. But the clues were there all along. Collections are things brought together, in so many senses of the term. Such assemblages have a capacity for telling stories about how different products make their ways through the world, and into our homes, bodies and lives. Honey collecting, like other forms of forest harvesting or hunting, tends to evoke ideas about a bound type of thing moving in one direction - out of the forest and into a market (wherever that might be). But what happens when a ‘natural forest’ honey supposedly harvested on an island in the Philippines is manufactured and sold in Manila? And when this honey’s association with nature and forest environments is hardly natural, but needs to be made apparent by literally rendering the final product green? How do such commodities relate to the forest honeys actually being harvested by Indigenous experts as part of their livelihoods and lifeways, and being marketed by non-government organizations? In attempting to discuss the issues that arose from my research, I found that bringing together a range of honey products that had different, yet related, trajectories could be a wonderful prompt for talking about the social and spatial disjunctures that often occur within efforts to add value to certain types of natural resources.
Posted in Engagement Blog | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Cloaking, not Bleaching: the Back Story from Inside Bureaucracy

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.
Posted in Engagement Blog | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Genese Marie Sodikoff on forest conservation, Malagasy worker-peasants and biodiversity

ENGAGEMENT editor Rebecca Garvoille recently caught up with Genese Marie Sodikoff, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Rutgers University, to discuss her new book, Forest and Labor in Madagascar: From Colonial Concession to Global Biosphere (2012, Indiana University Press), and its broader contributions to forest conservation and socio-environmental justice debates in Madagascar. This interview is the fourth installment in an ENGAGEMENT series exploring how environmental-anthropological book projects inspire meaningful engagements in study sites across the globe.
Posted in Engagement Blog | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Settler Colonial Nature in the Everglades

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.
Posted in Engagement Blog | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Campus Food Projects: Engines for a More Sustainable System?

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.
Posted in Engagement Blog | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off