Climate Change Task Force

Prof. Fiske writes:

The AAA Task Force on Global Climate Change is relatively new and we have just finalized our membership, so we would like to introduce ourselves and explore mutual interests with A&E on issues about the environment, agriculture, food, archaeology, or public policy.  One of the most striking things we’ve discovered so far is the growing extent to which anthropological and archaeological inquiry is focused on climate change, both historical/archaeological and in contemporary ethnography and political ecological analysis.  Anthropologists are working in communities and arenas where climate change is affecting the people with whom we work, either directly via the environment, or through institutions and programs as a result of global governance related to climate change.  As humans and cultures, we have been down some of these paths before (adjusting to swings in climate) with critical lessons, as archaeologists are showing us.

In brief, the Task Force came about because of strong AAA member interest and the support of  A&E  and the Section Assembly.  Our objectives are to recognize and communicate anthropological roles in and contributions to the study of climate change and climate-related issues, with particular emphasis on representing many voices and capturing stories, past and present;  to produce guiding documents to recognize, promote and develop anthropological contributions to global climate change-related issues; and promote engagement of the AAA and anthropologists in general with public policy agendas and the greater public interest, utilizing media and outreach modalities to reach beyond the discipline.  At the end of our term, we will provide the AAA with proposed actions and recommendations to support and promote anthropological engagement with climate change in research, guidance for students, and engaging with the public and policy circles.  You can find us at  http://www.aaanet.org/cmtes/commissions/CCTF/gcctf.cfm).

2012 AAA Meetings.  There are two things that are happening right now, in preparation for the 2012 meetings, for which we ask for your help and invite your participation and feedback.

We have one scientific session as a task force, and while we are precluded from co-sponsorship of sessions, we are committed to ensuring broad participation from all sub-disciplines and interpretations, from archaeological to contemporary ethnographic studies at multiple scales and insights, from global governance to political ecology.  To make these sessions widely available, we have been in touch with some of you, and have sent out a call for abstracts, but need your help in distributing this among your members who may be interested in the topic. We are also willing to share and build sessions collaboratively should there be overflow interest.  

In addition, we will propose a Public Policy Forum that builds on the scientific session, working through the Committee on Public Policy and IGAPP.  The policy forum will focus on the critical questions of anthropology and climate change – how best to integrate into and inform the policy process on the knowledge and insights that anthropology has, such as inequities of climate change, the need to re-think foundational concepts like adaptation and mitigation, and the enormous impact on place-based peoples, both past and present.

Changing the Atmosphere Column. We found that one of the most frequent requests is to find out what other anthropologists are doing in their engagement with climate change – studying the impact and challenges to communities, running field schools that monitor local ecological knowledge and climate change, or graduate students who want to be in touch with other people in the field.  The Task Force has started a monthly column on the Anthropology News website that helps address those needs – highlighting the work that anthropologists are doing and their insights into the phenomena of climate change.  We are actively soliciting people who would like to be featured in this concise and pithy column.  Sarah Strauss (strauss@uwyo.edu) is our Contributing Editor, and here is a link to our first column, which is in the current online version of AN: http://www.anthropology-news.org/index.php/2012/02/14/tales-from-the-aaa-task-force-on-global-climate-change/.   Please feel free to circulate to any of your members who have an interest in climate change from any angle if they would like to participate. You can also write comments at the bottom of any article and give us feedback on the web.  Let us hear from you.

Statements on Anthropology and Climate Change.   Task Force members and anthropologists at climate change sessions generally agree that we do not do a good job of translating our messages to the outside world.  Anthropologists have front-row seats in observing the impacts of climate change and in observing governance and scientific institutions at work.  We have knowledge about elements and impacts of climate change that need to be communicated to our own membership, other disciplines, and especially to decision makers and the general public more effectively.  The task force will be drafting a series of monthly statements on foundational elements of anthropology and climate change, from the unanticipated and deleterious impacts of climate change, to “adaptation” and the IPCC process.  These can be re-drafted as letters to the editor or other short pieces where appropriate.   I think you can see that we potentially have some areas of mutual concern, such as policy and human rights.  We would like to solicit participation from your members (and former members) who are interested in climate change to participate in the drafting and review of such statements prior to putting them on our website for greater comment.  Keep an eye out for a listing of the potential statements in our electronic Anthropology News column or contact me, Shirley Fiske, at sfiske@umd.edu.

Our longer-term objectives include building deeper and thicker relationships across interdisciplinary organizations, in an effort to extend the reach of anthropology analysis and insight.  To that end we have members in and are meeting with AGU, AMS, and AAAS, ESA and others.  We plan to build an accessible interactive “locale” for educational resources for graduate students, including bibliographies and syllabi, to encourage graduate students to focus in the developing field of climate change anthropology.

Please keep an eye out for us, and weigh in on the online version of AN.  A new posting is due to go up shortly.  You can also contact any of us or Shirley Fiske directly at  sjfiske@umd.edu or our AAA staff liaison, Amy Goldenberg at agoldenberg@aaanet.org.

AAA Global Climate Change Task Force Members (alphabetically):

  • Susan Crate, Department of Environmental Science and Policy, George Mason University
  • Carole L Crumley, Professor, Stockholm Resilience Centre,  Stockholm University
  • Shirley Fiske (Chair), Research Professor, Anthropology, University of Maryland;
  • Kathleen Galvin, Professor, Department of Anthropology, Co-Director, Institute for Society, Landscape and Ecosystem Change, Senior Research Scientist, Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory,Colorado State University
  • Heather Lazrus, National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR)
  • George Luber, Associate Director for Climate Change, Climate Change Program, Division of Environmental Hazards and Health Effects, National Center for Environmental Health, Centers for Disease Control & Prevention
  • Lisa Lucero, Professor of Anthropology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Anthony Oliver Smith, Professor Emeritus, Department of Anthropology, University of Florida
  • Ben Orlove, Professor, School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University
  • Sarah Strauss, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Wyoming
  • Richard R Wilk, Provost Professor , Department of Anthropology, Indiana University
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