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.
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. Continue reading
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.
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. Continue reading
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 africa, biodiversity, books, colonialism, conservation, development, engagement, forestry, interview, Madagascar, socio-environmental justice, worker-peasants
Laurie: I really appreciated the way this article captured and clearly conveyed broad historical trends and patterns that crossed space, at the same time that it attended to variations within these patterns. Both the arguments and the language in which they were presented were refreshingly clear! Continue reading
By Jessica R. Cattelino
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. Continue reading
By Peggy F. Barlett
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. Continue reading
By Cailín E. Murray with contributions from her students Whitney Lingle and Britny Burton
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.[i]
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. Continue reading