New & Notable

Environmental Anthropology Engaging Ecotopia: Bioregionalism, Permaculture, And Ecovillages

Edited by Joshua Lockyer and James R. Veteto In order to move global society towards a sustainable “ecotopia,” solutions must be engaged in specific places and communities, and the authors here argue for re-orienting environmental anthropology from a problem-oriented towards a solutions-focused endeavor. Using case studies from around the world, the contributors—scholar-activists and activist-practitioners— examine the interrelationships between three prominent environmental social movements: bioregionalism, a worldview and political ecology that grounds environmental action and experience; permaculture, a design science for putting the bioregional vision into action; and ecovillages, the ever-dynamic settings for creating sustainable local cultures.
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Spiritual Ecology: A Quiet Revolution

Eugene N. Anderson reviews Sponsel’s Spiritual Ecology: A Quiet Revolution:

Leslie Sponsel has defined a new field of inquiry: spiritual ecology. He traces spiritual views on the environment from early roots to modern advocates for religious, spiritual, or mystical approaches to environment. The first three chapters concern traditional societies. The first examines animism, a concept being rehabilitated after some years of relative eclipse. Sponsel then surveys the better-known studies of traditional societies and their views of their environments. The third chapter covers the “ecologically noble vs. ignoble savage” controversy. Sponsel dissects the popular culture views of the former and the various protests, ranging from politically conservative to academically searching. He compares these with the actual record, which reveals a tremendous variety and a lack of any “savages” or other stereotypic beings.

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How Will New Models Shape Our Research?

In a recent article, Genes, Culture, and Agriculture: An Example of Human Niche Construction, Michael J. O’Brien and Kevin A. Laland propose a model for understanding human relationships with created or built environments, particularly those associated with agriculture. O’Brien and Laland combine niche-construction theory (NCT) and gene-culture coevolutionary theory (GCT) to suggest that as people created and settled into agricultural environments, they themselves changed genetically to suit the environment. From the Current Anthropology article: “Anthropologists have long known the power that culture exerts in shaping the human condition, but it is becoming increasingly clear that the interactions of genes and culture—literally, their coevolution—offer a faster and stronger mode of human evolution than either by itself.” (See article here.) For anthropologists wanting to learn more about niche construction theory, the March edition of The Quarterly Review of Biology will feature a major article, Niche Construction Theory: A Practical Guide for Ecologists.

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Bring heritage breeds to holiday table

Peggy F. Barlett’s Op-Ed on genetic diversity in our food system on CNN:

Last week, I sat down with colleagues and students to an early Thanksgiving meal prepared by my university’s cafeteria. Along with our winter greens, butternut squash, brussels sprouts with apples and bacon, and pumpkin grits, we ate a roasted “heritage breed turkey.”

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Forest and Labor in Madagascar: From Colonial Concession to Global Biosphere

Marie Sodikoff new book comes out October 17:

Protecting the unique plants and animals that live onMadagascar while fueling economic growth has been a priority for the Malagasy state, international donors, and conservation NGOs since the late 1980s. Forest and Labor in Madagascar shows how poor rural workers who must make a living from the forest balance their needs with the desire of the state to earn foreign revenue from ecotourism and forest-based enterprises. Genese Marie Sodikoff examines how the appreciation and protection of Madagascar’s biodiversity depend on manual labor. She exposes the moral dilemmas workers face as both conservation representatives and peasant farmers by pointing to the hidden costs of ecological conservation.

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A Glimpse of Africa’s future?

A recent article in the Sunday Standard, by William G. Moseley, discusses the food crisis in Africa:

You wouldn’t know there’s a food crisis in Botswana, one of Africa’s wealthiest and most stable countries, because it’s a silent one. This is not the doom and gloom Africa that we often hear sensationalised in the media as a place of coups, famines and corruption.

No, Botswana is a model African state which has lived carefully within its means, had democratically elected governments since independence, and is the world’s leading exporter of precious diamonds.

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New findings on neoliberalism in Mexico

A new book reports on detailed ethnographic work showing how neoliberal policies are affecting commodity producers in Mexico.

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Growing threats to biodiversity arks

New research in Nature by a large group of scholars, including anthropologists Paige West and Marina Cords, examines impacts of deforestation on tropical biodiversity hotspots.

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Anthropology of White Bread

Aaron Bobrow-Strain has written White Bread: A Social History of the Store-Bought Loaf.  See his blog at the website for the Society for the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition.

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Conservation’s Dirty Secrets

Reporter Oliver Steeds travels the globe to investigate the conservation movement and its major organisations. Steeds finds that the movement, far from stemming the tide of extinction that’s engulfing the planet, has got some of its conservation priorities wrong.

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