Anthropological perspectives on environmental change and sustainable futures (Commission on Anthropology and the Environment)

Location 302
Date and Start Time 17 May, 2014 at 10:30


Thomas Reuter (University of Melbourne) email
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Short Abstract

The future not only of anthropology but also of humanity is threatened by profound environmental changes in the 21st century. International collaboration is essential for meeting this challenge. This panel asks how anthropologists are contributing to the global debate on environmental change.

Long Abstract

The future not only of anthropology but of humanity is threatened by unprecedented and profound environmental changes unfolding now, or predicted to take effect during the 21st century. International collaboration among nations but also among scientists will be essential to meet this global challenge. Yet, environmental responsibility and action are also a local matter.

Anthropologists, with their well-developed awareness of local diversity in the ways in which humans relate to the environment, can contribute much to the debate. Anthropology provides insights into how global environmental programs can be localized effectively across different societies and, conversely, how to globalize locally emerging solutions with potential to be used successfully elsewhere - including solutions developed recently in partnerships between international bodies and local people, but also those that have deep roots in local attitudes to the varied natural environments in which humans live.

This panel presents an opportunity for anthropologists to share practical experiences from their research on a broad range of environmental issues, from climate change and deforestation to water and food security, from policy to action research, from development impact assessment to the study of environmental movements.

Global and local inequalities arise from the uneven distribution of natural resources and risks from development projects. Panel participants thus may wish also to explore power relations involved in the appropriation of nature, with a focus on implications for environmental justice or for (socio- and bio-) diversity.

This panel is sponsored by the IUAES 'Commission of Anthropology and the Environment' (CAE, formerly CHE), see: http://www.iuaes.org/comm/humanecology.html

Chair: Thomas Reuter

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


Expanding coal and gas extraction in Queensland, Australia

Author: Alexandra Mercer (University of Queensland)  email

Short Abstract

New coal and gas projects in Australia are fiercely contested. Some of the stakes and forces at play are global in scale. Exploring connections between the political economic context and the way people involved talk about the issues allows anthropologists to offer a deeper analysis of events.

Long Abstract

New coal and gas projects in Australia are fiercely contested. The stakes are high, and the contest is influenced significantly by both the broader political economic context, and particular "regimes of truth" that scaffold thinking. Anthropologists can contribute significantly to our understanding of what's going on by tracing these influences, and exploring possible interactions between discursive and structural factors.

This paper presents critical discourse analysis from both the debate about coal seam gas expansion in the South of the state, and the debate about coal expansion in the Central West. This analysis usefully enriches existing descriptions of instrumental and structural ties between Australian governments and extractive industries, offering a more detailed understanding of the dynamics of power involved in support for new coal and gas extraction projects in Queensland.

Seeds of Life: the neoliberal agenda of monopolising agricultural seeds in East Timor

Author: Thomas Reuter (University of Melbourne)  email

Short Abstract

Instead of learning from past failures of the Green Revolution in the Global South, Timor-Leste’s National Development Plan adopts it as a solution to food insecurity. Efforts to bring in high-yield varieties through the "Seeds of Life" project ignore the negative impacts of Green Revolutions.

Long Abstract

Instead of learning from the past failures of the Green Revolution in nearby Indonesia and elsewhere in the Global South, Timor-Leste's twenty-year National Strategic Development Plan (TL-NSDP 2011-2030) adopts the Green Revolution as a solution to food insecurity. This Green Revolution has been drawing Asia's peasantry into the vortex of the world trade system, including the global market for high-yielding seeds. The term 'High Yielding Varieties' is a misnomer because it implies that the new seeds are high-yielding in and of themselves. The distinguishing feature of the seeds, however, is that they are highly responsive to certain key inputs such as fertilizers and irrigation water. Palmer therefore suggested the term 'high-responsive varieties' (HRV's) in place of 'high yielding varieties' (HYV)". These varieties are considered as "advanced", unlike the indigenous varieties which are seen as primitive by the promoters of the Green and Gene Revolution, even though they demand a lot of chemical fertilizers and three times more water than indigenous varieties. According to Oxfam 82% of surveyed households in Timor-Leste still save their own seed. I argue that efforts to bring the Green Revolution to Timor-Leste through the "Seeds of Life" project rely on ignorance or denial of the violent effect of Green Revolutions -- economically, ecologically, socially and culturally.

Urban sprawl: a contextual difference between sustenance and sustainable development

Authors: Amlan Ray (Spectrum Clinic & ERI)  email
Sweta Banerjee  email

Short Abstract

The paper analyses the fate of political reality of the government’s policy for sustainability of ecologically subsidized Kolkata against the prevention of urban sprawl in the Ramsar site (declaration under article 8 Ramsar Convention (Site No. 1208) of East Calcutta Wetlands) of 12,500 hectares.

Long Abstract

In a continued growth of urbanization, does the fate of human being offer newer thoughts to bring about new kind of legitimacy for planners for better standard of living? One line in rational thought leads to a political reality and government's policy to work out a series of alternative possibilities to centre around sustainability of ecologically subsidized Kolkata metropolis against the prevention of urban sprawl in the Ramsar site (declaration under article 8 Ramsar Convention (Site No. 1208) of East Kolkata Wetlands) of 12,500 hectares. Secondly, based on our observation, there is a paradigm shift of our own understanding about the everyday life of the wetland dwellers of East Kolkata under Ramsar site in the intra-generational context both from their own existence and justifying their work through the recycling of city's waste disposal.

Human populations are directly or indirectly benefited by wetland ecosystem goods (e.g. food) and services (e.g. waste assimilation), from functions of ecosystem. Wetland does have less importance in policy decision because of its failure in quantifying the ecosystem services by the planners.

The question of sustainability in the form of 'ecosystem services' and 'human capital services' encourages arguments is attributable to 'human welfare' and 'human habitat' probably justifying human rights in the new context of sustenance and sustainable development..

The paper concludes to stress the timely execution of legislation of East Kolkata Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Act, 2006 along with Ramsar declaration could shed positive result without jeopardizing the wetland biogeography of the world's most endangered place.

Knowledge production towards local sustainable futures: transformative types of research and a potential role of anthropology

Author: Anja Katharina Salzer (Free University of Bolzano)  email

Short Abstract

Transformative research is a response to global challenges combing understanding and action. The role of anthropology in such processes of knowledge production towards sustainable local futures will be discussed at the example of a project on biodiversity and pasture-use in Georgia/South Caucasus.

Long Abstract

The planetary boundaries are not only under pressure but exceeded in many ways. Especially mountain regions such as the Caucasus, are threatened by a multitude of challenges. In particular the loss of biodiversity due to climate change and land use changes are affecting local living.

Transformative types of research are a response to complex issues in research and practice (such as the loss of biodiversity) aiming on the development of sustainable, practical solutions. Thereby not only the boundaries between different disciplines are exceeded, but also those people involved in the process of knowledge production, that are affected by problems or changes. Yet transformative research is combining understanding and action but also reflecting its own institutional conditionality.

Drawing on the example of a transdisciplinary research project on pasture management and socio-ecological diversity in the Javakheti Highland of Georgia / South Caucasus, the question is to be developed how transition processes towards local sustainability could be facilitated. This also implies the questioning of the role of research and research-practice as such. Not only the future of Anthropology, but also the future itself lies in a responsible and democratic co-production of knowledge targeted on sustainable local transformation processes.

The paper will provide insights into the ongoing empirical research process and critically discuss challenges and potentials in terms of knowledge production, cooperation and integration that arise from transdisciplinary work on sustainable transition processes with multi-ethnic actors in Georgia. Thereby in particular role and future of Anthropology in such processes will be reflected.

Land conversion and environmental challenges in South Sumatera

Author: Syaifudin Zakir (Sriwijaya University)  email

Short Abstract

Land conversion in Indonesia per year changes 50 thousand-100 thousand fertile farmland, that also result in changes in forest and water catchment.

Long Abstract

Land conversion in Indonesia per year changes 50 thousand-100 thousand fertile farmland, that also result in changes in forest and water catchment. 50 percent of land conversion occurred on the island of Java. Land conversion in South Sumatera has run to many stages: First, from forest to plantation, food production and mining area; Second, from plantation and food production to commercial, and residential area and mining area; Third, plantation to mining area. Function diversion was followed by hoarding, so the land became less and less infiltration and result in flooding. Necessary concrete steps that this behavior can be prevented. The government must implement the strict supervision of the areas included in the ban area, so the convenience of the public can be maintained and protected from flooding during the rainy season, and the heat during the dry season. This land use conversion may not destructive the environmental and the issues of sustainability development itself.

Environmental changes in a floodplain of the Brazilian Amazon

Authors: Esther Katz (IRD)  email
Annamaria Lammel (Université Paris 8)  email

Short Abstract

In a multidisciplinary project on environmental changes in a floodplain of the Brazilian Amazon, anthropologists study its knowledge and perception by the local populations.

Long Abstract

The floodplains of the Amazon river are rich and diversified ecosystems, but they are also vulnerable. The inhabitants of the floodplain of Curaí, near Santarem (Brazil), in the lower Amazon live according to the seasonal fluctuations of the water level. Their activities (centered on agriculture, fishing, cattle-raising) follow the rythm of the seasons. Strong floods used to happen about every 20 years, but recently they have been occuring every 3 years, reaching water levels previously unrecorded. In recent years, dry seasons have also been drier. Within a multidisciplinary project composed of hydrological, biological and social scientists, the anthropological research is focused on the knowledge, perception and use of the environment by the local populations, their observation and interpretation of the environmental changes, their adaptation strategies and their view of the future. The anthropologists also intend to play a part in the dialogue between scientists who study the environment and the local populations, in the restitution of the results and the elaboration of future scenarios.

Bridging ecological anthropology and primatology for biodiversity conservation of African rainforests

Author: Naoki Matsuura (University of Shizuoka)  email

Short Abstract

Conservation of biodiversity in African rainforests is an important global concern but few effective projects exist. This paper presents the interdisciplinary practices of Japanese ecological anthropology and primatology for an effective system for conservation and local development.

Long Abstract

Conservation of biodiversity in African rainforests is an important global concern. Deforestation is rapidly progressing in the Congo Basin due to the expansion of agricultural lands and development of commercial logging. In addition to habitat loss from deforestation, the increase in bushmeat trade threatens some wildlife species with extinction. Great apes are particularly vulnerable because of their long lifecycle, low reproduction rate, large range size, and high risk to infectious diseases of human origin. However, few conservation projects with effective sustainable management systems exist, which is largely because of the conflict between local people's lives and conservation practices. It is therefore necessary to establish collaborative relationships with local populations, which requires detailed knowledge about local culture. In particular, understanding the diverse forms of relationships between humans and wildlife is important.

Japanese ecological anthropology and primatology, which have developed simultaneously based on long-term field research in various regions of Africa, provide clues to solve the issue. This paper presents the interdisciplinary practices of Japanese ecological anthropology and primatology that aim to develop close relationships with the local population and understand both people and wildlife. The author presents a collaborative research and conservation project in a national park in Gabon and then discusses the possibility of establishing an effective and sustainable system for biodiversity conservation along with local development. Integrating scientific knowledge of primatologists with a deep understanding of local culture of ecological anthropologists, the author suggests the implementation of participative ecotourism.

Land degradation and ecological knowledge based land rehabilitation of Hausa farmers in the Sahel region, West Africa

Author: Shuichi Oyama (Kyoto Univ.)  email

Short Abstract

Urban population increase and road transport system make possible production for remote markets and places fragile resources under ever greater strain. In Sahel of West Africa, Hausa farmers rehabilitate their crop fields for their productivity by their ecological knowledge and daily practices.

Long Abstract

The population increase has had dramatic effects to famines, food shortages, and conflicts over land and natural resource in Sahel region of West Africa. The land degradation is causing the decline of crop and livestock production. The subsistence is threatened by food shortage and loss of subsistence resources, especially in rural areas.

The Hausa people living in the arid environment of the southern Niger cultivate pearl millet and cowpea. Because of population increase, they need to cultivate the crops without fallow period and face the land degradation problem in the cultivated fields. Based on the field observation and interviews from villagers, land degradation can proceed easily if they do not take care of land management.

To avoid land degradation and food shortage problem, they carry trash as manure from their homesteads into the degraded land. The trash is called "taki" in the Hausa language. The taki mainly contains organic matter, such as plant residue and livestock excreta, and small amounts of low degradability materials such as worn-out clothing and vinyl sandals, used plastic bags, and the exhausted metal dishes and pots.

Finally, I will introduce our trials for land rehabilitation based on ecological knowledge of people and conflict prevention in the society. We built two 50m x 50m fenced plots and carried urban trash into the degraded land, formerly common pastureland for all the people including Hausa cultivators, Fulbe and Tuareg pastoral people. This practice is useful for preventing the livestock-induced crop damages and conflicts between the farmers and herders.

Indigenous community in the Nilgiri Biosphere and their sustainable forest management and bio-diversity

Author: Maralusiddaiah Halasur Matt (Anthropological Survey of India)  email

Short Abstract

In this paper I am trying to highlight about the indigenous people and their sustainable forest management and bio-diversity.

Long Abstract

The Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve is an International Biosphere Reserve in the Western Ghats, Nilgiri hills range of South India. The Western Ghats, Nilgiri Sub-Cluster (6,000+ km²), conjoining the Nilgiri .The Biosphere lies between 10o 50'. Significant sectors of the population are facing massive challenges relating to health and education. The tribe or Indigenous populations of India, most of them are inhabitants in the forest and they think that forest is their home that are directly dependent in forest resources and the health of forest eco-systems for their livelihoods. Most of them are mainly depending on forest to sustain their ways of life, including their culture and spiritualities. The convention on Biological Diversity recognizes the importance of traditional knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous communities for the conservation and sustainable use of diversity aims to respect, preserve, and promote such traditional knowledge. Their sustainable knowledge about the forest is ensure that the goods and services derived from the forest meet present-day needs while at the same time securing their continued availability and contribution to long-term development. The plants, roots, and roots and tubers are consumed by them directly or indirectly are preserve it for their future.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.