Tag Archives: food

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. Continue reading

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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. Continue reading

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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. Continue reading

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Sustainability and Food Production in the Hoosier Heartland: Learning through Local Engagement

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. Continue reading

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The Lores of Local Food: Different Ways of Being Local and Eating Locally

Throughout the course of my research, I’ve seen how there is no one way to eat locally or to farm sustainably. These concepts and practices are quite fluid and change based on context, but also with the flash of a dollar sign. The “Loca-vore” movement is but one incarnation of many efforts to (re)connect to land and food, to foster food autonomy, to check out of the ConAgra-Monsanto complex, or to profit off of well-intentioned consumers’ desires to be more responsible or ecological with their purchases. Continue reading

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Paige West on coffee, commodities, and community engagement

ENGAGEMENT editor Rebecca Garvoille recently caught up with Paige West, the Tow Associate Professor of Anthropology at Barnard College and Columbia University, to discuss her new book, From Modern Production to Imagined Primitive: The Social World of Coffee from Papua New Guinea (2012, Duke University Press), and its broader contributions to promoting social and environmental justice. In this interview, Dr. West recounts the multiple and inspiring ways her ideas and knowledge circulate far beyond her book (and academia) to effect positive change. This interview kicks off an ENGAGEMENT series, which explores how environmental-anthropological book projects have profound and important impacts on the world around us and inspire meaningful engagements in study sites across the globe. Continue reading

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