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Chapter 8: Environmental Anthropology

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Environ (condition in which a person or thing lives). The natural world, either as a whole or in a geographical area, especially as affected by human activity. Specialized ecology sense from 1956
Binaries of Anthropology & Environment
Culture / nature; Civilized / primitive; Order / chaos; City / jungle; Human / nature; Anthrop / environ; Evolution / ecology; Environmentalists Vs Local indigenous people
Charles Darwin
(1809 - 1882) An English naturalist and geologist, best known for his contributions to evolutionary theory. Author of "The Origin of Species" & "The Descent of Man"
Theorised that humans descended from apes, thereby connecting humans as a species to other animals. The theory argues that we are all involved in a struggle for survival: ‘Survival of the fittest’ leads to idea of hierarchies
Evolutionary Tree
Depicts animals perched on branches of a realistic tree. Typical of evolutionary diagrams in textbooks of the early 1900s - Take note of the use of clothing in the figure representing humans - Cutoff branch near the base of the tree represents a trunk for families of plants.
Alfred Russel Wallace
(1823 - 1913) British naturalist, explorer, geographer, anthropologist, & biologist. Many of his ideas were developed while doing fieldwork as a biologist in the Malay archipelago: Borneo, Malaysia, Singapore, islands of Indonesia as far as Aru Islands. He emphasised environmental pressures on species forcing them to become adapted to their local environment. In parts of his theory of evolution Wallace envisioned natural selection as a ‘feedback mechanism’ keeping species & varieties adapted to their environment. Also, his extensive travels – in the tropics - made him aware of the impact of human activities on the natural world.
Tropical Nature and Other Essays (1878)
Written by Alfred Russel Wallace. In the book, he warned about the dangers of deforestation and soil erosion, especially in tropical climates prone to heavy rainfall. He noted the complex interactions and inter-relations between vegetation and climate. He warned that the clearing of rainforests for tea cultivation in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and India would adversely impact the climate in those countries and lead to soil erosion.
Island Life (1881)
Written by Alfred Russel Wallace. In this book, Wallace again talked about deforestation and also the impact of invasive species. He also wrote the about the impact of European colonization on traditional and island communities.
Comes from the Greek word ‘oikos’ meaning ‘habitation’. It is a branch of biology that deals with the relationships between living organisms and their environment. It is holistic & can be on a very small scale such as microbes, or a pond; Or large river systems, a reef system, the rice terraces of the entire island of Bali, a whole part of the world, like the tropics, or the planet earth.
Living networks – webs of life. Can be severely affected by the introduction of a new species or change in one part of the environment – which will multiply as it moves through the system.
Gregory Bateson
(1904 - 1980) An English anthropologist, social scientist, linguist, visual anthropologist, semiotician and cyberneticist. Author of "Mind and Nature: A Necessary Unity" (1979)
Fritjof Capra
(1939) A physicist and systems theorist. He is the founding director of the Centre for Ecoliteracy at Berkeley, Califormia, and on the faculty of ecological studies, England. Influenced by Gregory Bateson. Author of the book "The Web of Life" (1996)
Deep Ecology
A term invented by Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess. Refers to a particular ecological movement that considers that everything is connected to everything else. It rejects ranking of species - humans are only one aspect of a holistic ecosphere in which all aspects have the equal right to thrive. It refers to a questioning of the values and philosophies underlying environmental problems and the radical realignment of these values to a design which preserves natural systems. It draws upon the knowledge of Indigenous people to learn values and practices that can help us to dwell wisely in the many different places in this world.
Concern with the preservation of the environment. Often refers to the preservation of the natural environment against perceived negative impacts of human interaction with the environment. Environmental disputes arise when interests conflict over types of resource use, access to resources, and the control of usage. This may include western people destroying the environment, western people trying to prevent local people destroying environment, or clashes between more powerful national groups and indigenous groups.
Environmental Problems
Examples include the Amazon rainforest, the Penan logging blockades in Sarawak, PNG forests, Ok Tedi Mine in PNG, the Narmada River Dam in Central India, and the large scale clearing for cattle, soybeans and palm oil particularly in South America and Borneo. Many of these disputes directly affect and involve indigenous people of the particular regions as their cultural practices are closely tied up with hunting and gathering practices.
The Balinese
Ethnography by J. Stephen Lansing. It examines Balinese cosmology; the effects of the Green Revolution on Balinese agriculture; the ecological role of their water temples in an age-old system of integrated rice terraces; and the cultural history of Bali.
Environmental Refugees
A possible result of global environmental change. Relocation of traditional peoples. The Carteret Islanders, a community living on a remote island chain in the South Pacific Ocean, are being relocated…they are some of the world’s first environmental refugees
Whale Hunters of Lamalera, Indonesia
Animist – Catholics: Belief in the spirit of the whale; Spirit of the traditional boats ‘Tena’; Whale hunt – before the kill: pray to the traditional gods sun and moon, and also to the Christian god; Ask the whale to sacrifice its life to feed the village. Keep the skulls of the whale. Traditionally kept ancestors’ skulls
From Latin anima ‘soul, life’. Belief that non-human entities are spiritual beings, or embody some kind of life-principle. Animism encompasses the belief in interrelation between the spiritual and physical and material worlds. Souls or spirits exist in all animals, plants, geographic features such as mountains or rivers and natural phenomena like thunder and lightning. Animism widely found in the religions of indigenous peoples: Shinto, some forms of Hinduism, Buddhism, Paganism etc.