Dr. Tanya Argounova-Low AT3018 Course coordinator
The course: 12 lectures on Fridays 12-2 One tutorial a week. Signing for tutorials - 1 st floor Edward Wright Building.
Assignment 1. PROJECT: -To choose a theme for exploration: e.g. energy and transport projects, windfarms, roads, animal rights, hunting, ecotourism, landscape contestations, environmental organisations, etc. to submit a proposal (1-2 paragraphs describing what the project will be about) by Monday,October15. - To submit final project (can be up to 4 thousand words) by Monday, November 12.
Assignment 2. Essay: -To choose an essay topic and write 2,000 words (p.11 of Course Guide). - I will spend more time during tutorial session on writing, preparation, referencing, etc. - Deadline for assignment 2 is Monday, December 10. - Submit through Turnitin (id, password in the Course Guide, p.11) -Late essays are loosing mark points!
Nature and environment: Standard account of environmental perception as a cultural construction of nature. But: environment is a relative term. Just as there can be no organism without environment, so also there can be no environment without an organism. Environment is never complete. Environments are continually under construction. Distinction between nature and environment corresponds to the difference in perspective between seeing ourselves as beings within a world and as beings without it.
Dilemmas of relationship between anthropology and environmentalism Dilemma between an active commitment to social reform and a detached observation of social process. How to study that of which we are a part and still remain part of it? Applied anthropology… Involvement in advocacy is consistent with the principles of anthropological theory.
Development of environmentalism The invention of contemporary environmentalism is associated with (Macnaghten and Urry, 1998): -post-war concern with nature, -the emergence of the discourse of nature as environment -globalisation of environmental challenges. The post-war environmentalism in the 1950s: general reconstruction and growth. Political priorities to growing capitalist industrialisation, modernisation and technological progress. Environmentalism and green movements as a phenomenon of postmodernism (Sutton).
The post-war concern with nature in Britain: issues of amenity, aesthetics, pollution control and scientific nature conservation. Concerns about the impacts of modernisation upon nature were seen to be backward, nostalgic, reactionary and irrelevant to public policy. Attempts to preserve the integrity of the countryside in the face of development and modernising pressures that environmental concerns entered the public consciousness; But: the post-war period also saw establishment of national parks, the Civic Trust, a comprehensive town and country planning system. Changing intellectual discourse. Preservationism was progressive, yet nostalgic. The quest to save relics of the past and of nature thus came to represent a quest to save an integral part of English/British identity.
The perception of environmental issues has changed with time. The impact of non-technological factors on the environment has been recognised but not fully understood. E.g. dam projects, new roads. Consumer choice - a powerful tool in environmental campaigning. European ban to import of baby seal products from Canada - reduction in seal hunting, and unintentionally damaged the economies of Arctic communities. General rise in green consumerism. The combined effect of technology with economic values, ethical standards, political ideologies, religious conventions, practical knowledge. Through this recognition, the role of social sciences in environmental discourse has been firmly established (Milton 1996: 5-6).
However, until very recently, and with a few exceptions, the voice of anthropology in this arena has been almost silent, despite the fact that anthropologists have sometimes become involved in environmental issues, particularly where they have implications for human rights. The relative absence of anthropology from environmental discourse should be a cause of concern, given that a great deal of the knowledge generated by anthropological research, particularly on the ways in which people understand and interact with their environments, could be of value in the search for solutions to environmental problems (Milton 1996: 6).
What is environmentalism? Environmentalism is …a quest for a viable future, pursued through the implementation of culturally defined responsibilities (Milton 1996). The environment – the complex of natural phenomena – is affected by human activity. Within what have been called contemporary complex cultures, environmentalism impinges on public consciousness through many channels; through press reports, television documentaries, government policy statements, pressure-group campaigns, commercial advertising and charity appeals. But environmentalism is not only contemporary complex cultures. Practices of non-industrial peoples, and their responses to external threats.
Why environmental issues took so long to make their way to anthropological mainstream? Environmental anthropology recently. The relationship between environmentalism and anthropology has been explored since the late 1960-s. Assumption: the social and the natural are separable. Focus on society and culture, leaving all natural things to the natural sciences, e.g. issues of pollution and ecology have been seen as outside the remit and competence of social scientists; not easy to connect core sociological themes such as power, class and inequality to environmental issues; An anthropologist is well aware that nature or the natural should be treated with reverence and respect. Such a perspective - alien in 18 th and 19 th century. Nature - wild, disordered, uncivilised and even cruel. Nature had to be worked on, cultured and transformed, not left wild or intact. Today, instead it is modern society itself that is in the dock, charged with threatening to destroy the natural ecosystems on which all human beings depend.
Our period -new environmental age (Nicholson 1987), an age of ecology (Worster 1985) and an age of risk (Beck 2002), in which the main threats to human societies stem from their relationship with the natural world. In so far as human beings cannot exist apart from the rest of the nature, this relationship constitutes a permanent feature. However, the social awareness of nature and society or of environmental problems differs widely across different societies and over time.
Contribution of anthropology to environmental studies. What can anthropology say about the future of life on Earth? Moreover, it is anthropology that preoccupies itself with peoples lives, what surrounds them, and environment. Two complementary processes: analysis of environmentalism might contribute to the development of anthropology as a discipline: application of anthropological knowledge and the relationship between anthropology and advocacy. Global nature of environmental problems might make the study of environmentalism an appropriate testing grounds for ideas on the globalisation of culture. The second process is the contribution which anthropological knowledge might make to the public debate on environmental issues.
How can anthropology contribute to environmentalist cause? Milton (1996) suggests three ways: First, environmental problems are almost always defined as ecological problems and anthropologists have, for many years, been students of human ecology. If culture is the mechanism through which human beings interact with their environment, then the whole field of cultural anthropology can be characterised as human ecology.
Second, the understanding of environmental problems and the implementation of solutions are often trans-cultural operations, and interpretation across cultural boundaries is recognised as a distinctive speciality of anthropologists. Unlike any other discipline, anthropology has a unique ability for cross-cultural communication and connection. It is through anthropology that communication across cultural boundaries becomes possible and interpretation of cultural realities becomes an important function in a world where differences in perception and understanding can be damaging.
Third, anthropology can help to refine the process of environmental advocacy. Environmental advocacy is active involvement in the discourse of environmentalism, in the process of defining and implementing environmental responsibilities. In practice it has much in common with other fields of advocacy in which anthropologists and other social scientists engage. E.g: oil exploration and the land-claims of Native people in Alaska; reindeer pasture and land tenure in post-Soviet Siberia, etc.
Critique of environmentalism Piers Vitebsky (1995): environmentalism involves a one-sided and total concept of control, one based on domination and regulation, rather than on… delicate and constantly renewed negotiation…This approach is frankly anthropocentric to the point of being utilitarian: the entire landscape is seen as a farm, a mine or s supermarket…In this view, environment almost becomes one with the economy, a term which is in no way divine but which has meaning only within the context of its management by human agents. Nature lacks totality and consciousness or intentionality: it is something less than cosmos. The fragmentation of environmentalist knowledge. The social fragmentation takes place as people drift rapidly in and out of organisations and pressure groups.