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IUAES 2013: Evolving Humanity, Emerging Worlds. 5-10 August 2013.

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Evolving humanity, emerging worlds

Manchester, UK; 5th-10th August 2013

(PE43)

Averting a global environmental collapse: the role of anthropology and local knowledge (WCAA panel)

Location University Place 3.204
Date and Start Time 07 Aug, 2013 at 09:00

Convenor

Thomas Reuter (University of Melbourne) email
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Short Abstract

Today's environmental challenges reflect the systemic failure of our political structures to safeguard the common good. The real issues are not technical but social. IUAES and WCAA are therefore co-sponsoring this panel to bring global environmental concerns to the heart of the social sciences.

Long Abstract

Today's overwhelming environmental challenges reflect the systemic failure of contemporary socio-political structures and processes to safeguard the common good. The failure to implement already available solutions reveals that this is not simply a technical problem. Social science knowledge is indispensable for delivering the incisive socio-cultural changes environmental challenges now demand of us. The IUAES and the WCAA thus are co-sponsoring this panel from a commitment to bring pressing global environmental concerns to the heart of the social sciences.

Anthropologists are well aware of the diversity of human cultures and societies, and the associated diversity of knowledge and practical skills, but also of the immense loss of such diversity in the wake of neo-liberal globalization. Demonstrating the survival value of cultural diversity has become an urgent task. Local research can illustrate strategies other societies have used to prevent vested interests from destroying their lives, how their agricultural traditions have managed to ensure sustainable production, or how they are applying today's best available technology and their own innovative ideas to tackle environmental problems locally. We can also produce case studies of the consequences of social and environmental injustice, or demonstrate how socio-cultural factors impact on large-scale environmental projects such as carbon trading schemes (e.g. REDD+). We invite speakers to this panel who have conducted research in this field or who would like to develop new theoretical frameworks for getting to the heart of the practical environmental issues now threatening our survival.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Negotiating 'eco' for 'econ': contradictions between participatory development and resource management in implementing social capital initiatives in eastern Indonesia

Authors: Gregory Acciaioli (University of Western Australia)  email
Dirk Steenbergen (Murdoch University)  email
Vivianti Rambe  email
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Short Abstract

Participatory development programs based on the model of the World Bank’s Social Capital Initiative often conflict with customary forms of resource management in eastern Indonesia, resulting in dilemmas posed for women’s participation, village leadership, and local environmental transformations.

Long Abstract

In 1996 the World Bank launched its Social Capital Initiative as a new global framework for participatory development. Its flagship program in Indonesia, the National Program for Community Empowerment (Program Nasional Pemberdayaan Masyarakat, PNPM-Mandiri), has spawned a paradigm that has been adopted by various ministries as the model for their own village development programs. Designed to enhance local economic empowerment and provide more relevant, equitable forms of development, the shared strategy is embedded in a modernist entrepreneurial model with a neoliberal emphasis on local rather than governmental responsibility for project formulation and implementation.

However, in several eastern Indonesian villages contradictions have emerged between such development interventions and strategies of conservation relying on customary (adat) environmental governance. This is particularly evident in areas where local adat has been recast with NGO support as a community resource management structure responsible for environmental governance. This paper explores such contradictions in several sites within eastern Indonesia. It demonstrates how the local-level entrepreneurialism fostered by PNPM and other analogously structured programs has led to environmental degradation, on the one hand, and how the operation of adat has curbed the range of participation and possibility for successful outcomes in such programs, on the other. It emphasises such factors as the dilemmas posed for women's participation, village leadership reorganisation, and the instrumental transformation of local environments.

Embodied experiences and the global gaze Conflicting perceptions of water in the Jequitinhonha Valley- Brazil

Authors: Andrea Zhouri (Federal University of Minas Gerais)  email
Raquel Oliveira (UFMG)  email
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Short Abstract

Dams are globally considered to be a sustainable source of energy and have a key place within climate change debate. The paper analyses the consequences of dam building for downstream dwellers in Brazil, with a especial focus on a socio-technical controversy between anthropologists and sanitation engineers raised by the Irapé dam.

Long Abstract

Research experience has driven our attention towards different kinds of environmentalism as well as the hierarchical positions and power relations involving global views and local realities. Sustainable development, as a global mantra, has underlined international policies heavily based on ecological modernization strategies which in turn are supported by a belief that technology, market initiatives and consensus building processes, combined, can solve the globally assumed "environmental crisis". The latter is thus constructed as a reality now widely debated under the framework of climate change. Hence, science and technology must be objectively put into work in order to prevail global disasters. Such a perspective, we argue, is drawn on global experiences disengaged, or thought to be disengaged, from the processes of ones own material life. The paper analyses some of the consequences to people on the ground of such powerful and most legitimised perceptions of the environment. It turns to the construction of dams in Brazil, globally considered to be a sustainable source of energy, and will focus on some of its consequences for downstream dwellers, people who are not considered as "dam affected people" by decision-makers. Although much has been written on the impacts of dams upon people who are displaced by the reservoirs, little has been said about the effects of dams upon downstream dwellers. The analysis will, thus, focus on dwellers of the Jequitinhonha river, in the state of Minas Gerais, and a socio-technical controversy between anthropologists and sanitation engineers around the impacts of the Irapé dam.

Exposing the Worldwide Neoliberal Quest to Undermine Sustainable Agriculture and Food Sovereignty: A Case Study From East Timor

Author: Thomas Reuter (University of Melbourne)  email
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Short Abstract

The spread of corporate-controlled industrial agriculture is endangering food security around the world. This process is orchestrated by the “aid” and “development” industry and its corporate sponsors, using neoliberal strategies to dispossess rural people under the guise of “legal empowerment.” My example is East Timor.

Long Abstract

The global spread of corporate-controlled, petro-chemical and GM dependent industrial agriculture to countries where traditional agriculture-focused economies still dominate is recklessly endangering food security and food sovereignty around the world. It is leaving the world's food supply increasingly in the hands of a few corporations and forcing hundreds of millions of people off their land and into urban poverty. This process is directed by the international "aid" and "development" industry and its corporate sponsors, using Hernando de Soto's sinister strategies for the dispossession of rural populations under the guise of "legal empowerment." At the same time, our knowledge of more appropriate, sustainable ways of living on the land is eroded because such development tactics also destroy the local communities that are the custodians of culturally diverse knowledge. This paper illustrates these processes of dispossession and cultural destruction through an analysis of the corporate politics of land, water and food in East Timor.

Socio-environmental vulnerability among traditional populations in the bay of Todos os Santos, Bahia, Brazil

Authors: Carlos Caroso (Universidade Federal da Bahia)  email
Fátima Tavares (Universidade Federal da Bahia)  email
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Short Abstract

This paper discusses how climate change, economic growth, urban expansion and modernization affect traditional populations, increasing socioenvironmental vulnerability and risk of various forms of territorial and sociocultural displacement.

Long Abstract

The proposed paper will present the ongoing results of a transdisciplinary research in the area of the Baía de Todos os Santos, in the State of Bahia, Brazil, for which we have taken the idea of vulnerability as the core analytical concept. From our point of view, the vulnerability of a population cannot be understood through dualistic presuppositions which value tradition and change. By this we mean that it is not the case of evaluating major or minor acceptance or resistance to change, or, as its reverse, aprioristically considering certain transformations as positive, because they have modernizing characteristics of "social promotion" or "social equity", and the like. We understand vulnerability as the major or minor capacity of self-management of those populations affected by the processes of modernization, which will occur when exogenous transformations "turn into" endogenous transformations. For supporting our arguments we have taken for analysis five main axis of research:

1) the conditions of the traditional populations and their complex relations with the natural environment (climate changes and increase in seawater temperature, erosion of beaches, reduction of water resources and their increasing contamination, the effect over natural resources and economic activities, population displacement );

2) the territory and legal rights (presence of various maroon groups who have not had their rights to land and territory recognized, landless agriculturalists, and traditional fishermen);

3) the social networks and how they are articulated;

4) the cultural heritage (material and immaterial culture);

5) the socioenvironmental impacts of large public and private constructions works.

Cities as semi-voluntary concentration camps

Author: Petr Skalník (University of Hradec Králové)  email
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Short Abstract

Urban space in most parts of the world expands rapidly and uncontrolably. The advantages of urban concentration are now outweighed by disadvantages. Residential inequalities are coupled with political and economic. City has become a place of dehumanization. The solutions are not in mega-cities but in promoting self-sustaining neo-rural deconcentrations.

Long Abstract

Cities are often quoted as expression of civilization and progress. Though it is possible to find many evidence of the contribution of urban life to humanization, both public and academics tend to forget that even in Europe the urban concentrations have until recently been also places of devastating epidemics, squalor, criminality, war sieges, of deepest social differences. Cities have been centres of power but also most effective subjugation of their populations. At present many cities in developed countries suffer from air and water pollution, chaotic urbanism, territorial vastness, etc. In less developed parts of the world to these anti-life factors are added shanties and slums, mass unemployment, criminality, frustration for million. Yet, humanity urbanizes at enormous pace. Whereas in developed world most inhabitants live in the cities in more rural parts of the world the balance tilts gradually towards predominant urbanization as well. Whole areas which sustained agricultural population are now depopulated and millions move headlong into the city as if attracted by the tune of the proverbial rat catcher. The paper will discuss this apparent contradiction between the dream and reality of the headlong urbanization and some trends away from excessive urbanization. Uncontrolled expansion of mega-cities in India, Mexico, Africa will be compared to policies of urbanization in Europe and North America, Middle East, China and Russia. Anthropologists are well-equipped to examine the possibly catastrophic trends and should instead of celebrating seemingly emancipating urban modernity examine arguments for alternatives to the total urbanization of the world.

Small Farmers, Food Security and Drastic Climate Change

Author: Joan P Mencher (Lehman Col. & CUNY Grad CTR.)  email
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Short Abstract

Using new management techniques, few artificial inputs but incorporating weeds into plant roots, less water than traditional methods and releasing less CO2/ Methane into the atmosphere, I discuss how this affects small/medium size farmers and their social relations.

Long Abstract

Based on work in South India, I discuss SRI/SCI, a set of new management techniques that started first with rice in Madagascar and has spread to more than 42 countries world-wide. Rice intensification systems are spreading in Asia through farmer-to-farmer contact, NGOs and state programs. Farmers are obtaining significantly greater yields with less seed, less water, and fewer costly inputs. While much is known about it agronomicallyB though it is still a work in progressBanthropological work, and even anecdotal data, on its effects on small farming communities hardly exists. More information is needed about the socio-political implications of SRI/SCI. These methods are challenging present world records in yields and lessening social inequality in fundamental ways, while they also release less CO2/ methane into the atmosphere. In India, many women=s self-help groups and even individual women are involved in its propagation. This paper looks at some of these impacts, primarily (but not exclusively) in South India. It was initially rejected by the scientific establishment, though that is now changing. The choice between using SRI-SCI vs. establishment industrial inputs raises questions about which will survive in the 21st century. Clearly, it is not in the interest of the MNCs to encourage SRI/SCI, which uses traditional seeds and little or no external inputs. Can these approaches, along with other water saving methods, turn the tide against hunger and poverty and climate degradation - all currently being exacerbated by industrial agriculture?

Natural resource management policy: a challenge in sustainable development

Authors: Syaifudin Zakir (Sriwijaya University)  email
Restu Juniah (Faculty of Engineering Sriwijaya University)  email
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Short Abstract

Natural resource management policy should be designed to accommodate the long term need of human beings and the sustainable use of natural resources.

Long Abstract

Indonesia as an archipelago shows the geographical conditions of a region dominated by the ocean and hence is highly vulnerable to climate change and rising sea levels. On the other side a geography with the longest coastline in the world also is a blessing for this country. Indonesia is a mega-biodiversity country and has the world's third largest forest area with a wealth of flora and fauna. Current concerns at the loss of tropical forests arise from increased public awareness of the importance of forest biodiversity as a 'natural warehouse.' A variety of environmental case studies related to biodiversity indicate we have not been able to preserve this biodiversity. Exploitation of biodiversity, wildlife poaching and trade, illegal logging and forest conversion into residential, farming, and mining areas are some of the factors that threaten biodiversity. This situation reminds us of the important need for the people of Indonesia to sustain the continuity of development through the preservation of biodiversity on land and at sea. Forests provide food sources and livelihoods, as well as a beauty that should be enjoyed by the next generation. The negative impacts of development can be avoided if planning and management are optimized to produce a positive outcome for biodiversity. Effort, collaboration and cooperation between governments, local communities and companies are the key elements that must always be adjusted to produce optimum diversity.

East Kolkata wetland and urbanization: use of local knowledge in the purification of sewage by a single pond system

Authors: Amlan Ray (Spectrum Clinic & ERI)  email
Prakash Mondal (University of Delhi)  email
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Short Abstract

The paper critically analyses the role of local knowledge of the indigenous people in the purification of sewage and waste water and supplying the varieties of fish and agricultural produce to Kolkatans without damaging the rich biodiversity of the wetland.

Long Abstract

Ecologically subsidized Kolkata metropolis has a geological advantage has a slope towards east which facilitates the drainage system carrying sewage and waste water into vast swampy, marshy land in the eastern part of Kolkata acts as a 'sink'. This sink undergoes a continuous pressure of a rampant growth of urban built and infrastructure through wetland reclamation ignoring the importance of drainage and purification of sewage as well as the rich biodiversity of wetland. Many of the performance of wetland functions go unnoticed because of its slow mechanism of chemical-biological-physical processes by filtering out pollutants to maintain the water quality before it enters into the distributaries of Bay of Bengal. Wetland dwellers with their knowledge of precision technology (for e.g. linkage between solid waste and compost manure, animal waste and fish feed, plant waste(Hyacinth) and cattle as well as fish feed ) inherited from the older generation to convert the wastewater into resource recovery system are reflected into an aqua cultural and agricultural cultivation despite several interferences. Human populations are directly or indirectly benefited by wetland ecosystem goods (e.g. food) and services (e.g. waste assimilation) to utilize the flow of waste water from the outfall channel particularly by maintaining the 4 level resource recovery systems such as garbage vegetable farms; wastewater-fed fishponds; paddy fields using fishpond effluent; and sewage-fed brackish water aquaculture would be the important of our study.

Vested interests and environmental injustice: An ethnographic study of development programmes in South Italy.

Author: Giuliana B. Prato (University of Kent)  email
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Short Abstract

This paper draws on ethnographic material from the province of Brinsidi, in South Italy. It offers a diachronic analysis of the development programmes for South Italy focusing on the industrialization of the Brindisi area and its impact on local agriculture, natural resources and quality of life.

Long Abstract

Although Italy is a member of the G8 council of leading economic powers, economic commentators argue that its international influence remains limited because of the economic drag factor of the less prosperous South.

Drawing on ethnographic material from Brindisi, this paper offers a diachronic analysis of different economic policies aimed at solving the so-called Southern Question. A major asset of Brindisi is its port and the attendant activities (military, commercial and, later, industrial). However, the economy of Brindisi province is mainly rurally-based; thus, in the attempt to bring economic development to the area, national economic policies aimed at turning local peasants into industrial workers. The paper looks at: 1) the impact of the reckless industrialization on the local environment and on traditional agricultural activities; 2) the local protest against the construction of a coal power-station. Such a protest not only expressed environmental (and health) concerns, but also highlighted fundamental aspects of citizenship rights, and social and economic justice.

The paper links the local dimension to national processes and to programmes of global restructuring (e.g., recent EU policies). Advocates of the free market and of the "values of economic liberalism" argue that such restructuring can be enormously beneficial to South-Italian economy for it brings about competitive approaches in a "milieu" often prone to protectionist practices. However, anthropological analysis highlights the significance of the interaction between economic, political and social institutions in the reformulation of local strategies to attract development funding in the context of shifting administrative and political power.

Environment impact assessment: the story of a failed project

Author: Paul Nchoji Nkwi (Catholic University of Cameroon)  email
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Short Abstract

In the 1990s against the background of an endemic economic crisis that plagued Cameroon, the World Bank through Global Environmental Facility (GEF) embarked on a project designed to protect 12 pristine forest ecosystems with a high degree of biodiversity. A team of experts including two anthropologists examined the human and cultural components. After six months of intensive research, a report produced highlighted the potential depletion of vast natural resource. The need to design mitigation plans to address the negative effects was endorsed by the World Bank and strongly approved by the Cameroon government but 15 years later, each and every recommendation has been systematically ignored by logging companies whose unholy alliance with government officials have turn one of the biodiversity paradises into a free zone for all. The participatory approach designed to involve the Baka Pygmies that have known, used and exploited or manage it in accordance with their customs and traditions have been thrown out and logging companies have taken over. What a tragedy!

Long Abstract

In the 1990s against the background of an endemic economic crisis that plagued Cameroon, the World Bank through Global Environmental Facility (GEF) embarked on a project designed to protect 12 pristine forest ecosystems with a high degree of biodiversity. A team of experts including two anthropologists examined the human and cultural components. After six months of intensive research, a report produced highlighted the potential depletion of vast natural resource. The need to design mitigation plans to address the negative effects was endorsed by the World Bank and strongly approved by the Cameroon government but 15 years later, each and every recommendation has been systematically ignored by logging companies whose unholy alliance with government officials have turn one of the biodiversity paradises into a free zone for all. The participatory approach designed to involve the Baka Pygmies that have known, used and exploited or manage it in accordance with their customs and traditions have been thrown out and logging companies have taken over. What a tragedy!

Climate change and local uncertainties: Perceptions and reactions in an Alpine community of South Tyrol

Author: Sophie Elixhauser (University of Augsburg)  email
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Short Abstract

This paper explores the perceptions, discourses and activities connected to global climate change in an Alpine community of South Tyrol, and the insecurities this concept creates on the ground.

Long Abstract

This paper explores the perceptions, discourses and activities connected to global climate change in an Alpine community of South Tyrol (Italy), and the insecurities this concept creates on the ground. Though the Alps due to their physical exposure are often regarded as particularly vulnerable to environmental changes associated with global warming, fieldwork in a South Tyrolean community shows that many inhabitants do not feel personally affected nor concerned to act upon rather vague (and sometimes contested) predictions of the climate scientists' community - predictions which appear mostly detached from their particular environments. With the Autonomous Province of South Tyrol aiming to become a true 'Klimaland', climate protection and adaptation are increasingly becoming part of official regulations and the topic appears in media discussions of different sorts. In the local community under study, however, climate change serves mainly as a sort of "add-on" explanation by local politicians and some individuals concerned with environmentally-friendly activities (e.g., sustainable tourism, building), yet not as a major frame of interpretation and determinant of action in itself. One encounters great uncertainty with regard to the question whether global climate change is the reason for the environmental/meteorological changes that affect people's surrounding environments, and respective questions are often delegated to experts. This paper will look at how local action and non-action develops in the light of this uncertainty.

Male-female and humankind-nature balances

Author: Giorgio Sacco  email
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Short Abstract

The assumption of a new anthropological framework, based on parity between sexes, would facilitate restoring a balance between humankind and nature.

Long Abstract

The paper is introducing to a possible new anthropological framework, and, more specifically, to an anthropological frame of reference based on parity between sexes. In fact one key anthropological parameter would be the power balance between sexes, their relatives included. An unbalance of such power would correspond to a splitting between referring the positive aspects of nature to the more powerful sex, and those negative to the less powerful one. An example would be the connection between patriarchy and the tendency to subject the most savage aspects of nature, as similar to female nature, origin of possible punishments, diseases, death, and other problems, besides the research of a paradise, an ideal patriarchal culture and so on. An example of such tendencies outside the Western socioculture could be that of the Blackfeet American Indians. These unbalances would constitute, particularly within the Western socioculture, see e.g. the Cartesian dualism, an useful premise to indiscriminately subject nature.

Finding an anthropological reference for parity between sexes looks as quite simple. In fact some considerations based on Murdock's social types would lead to the indication of the nor-Eskimo social type as main reference. Should there be expert representatives of such sociocultures, they should be encouraged to express their own opinion on the Western socioculture. Similar aspects are even present in the Western socioculture itself, however the assumption of such personal viewpoints by its researchers could present many difficulties, which should be discussed.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

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