Undeniable Vulnerability: Climate Change and Indigenous Cultures

In our first-world society, we often view climate change as a distant problem. It certainly is pressing, but the reality of climate change causes us to disregard it out of fear, as not an “immediate issue”. We passively do things to slow it down to feel as though we are doing our part. In his article, “The cultures endangered by Climate Change,” Greg Downey, Evjue-Bascom Professor and Associate Dean for social sciences at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, takes the view of climate change from a different perspective. Using the work of Anthropologist Susan Crate, Downey discusses the way that climate change has already influenced and continues to influence the lives and traditions of the world’s indigenous populations. Maddeningly, climate changes’ effects will probably hit hardest the populations that have contributed to it the least. The effects are already widespread, from extreme droughts in Kenya to unseasonably warm winter temperatures in Siberia. The livelihoods of the cultures existing in these areas and many more are being threatened because they rely so heavily on the environments that are being significantly altered. Hunting, fishing, and herding practices, farming, cultural and ritual practices, and the overall health of these populations are being put at risk.

Amazingly, these cultures have already begun to display the incredible human ability to adapt to a changing environment. The reality is that these societies were already at risk due to the industrialization of the world, and that accelerated climate change has only increased their vulnerability. It seems beyond reason and possibility that these cultures, some of which have existed for thousands of years, would be unable to adapt to these changes. In my opinion, sensitivity from hugely industrialized modern societies to these indigenous cultures is imperative to their continued survival. A world without indigenous peoples would be a deeply saddening end to a hard-fought battle.


Changing Climate, Changing People

It seems that climate change is less a result of physical actions and more of a result of an age old system. Capitalism has fostered a human dependence on fossil fuels, a need for consumerism, and economic expansion. Money and greed are killing our planet, especially as of late. Within the last ten years temperatures have risen significantly and if something is not done quickly it may be too late (Capitalism vs The Climate).
I find it sad that some areas that severely suffer from the effects of climate change have no major economy, and therefore do not contribute largely to the issue. Take for example the Carteret Islands in Papa New Guinea, they trade by means of shells- this is not one of the industrialized countries whose economic systems call for mass production, shipping, and drilling. Yet, these people were forced to leave their island as it is going underwater due to the rising sea levels destroying their farming land (Sun Come Up).
This is a prime example of structural violence, these people need food and a place to live but the system of industrialized capitalism is taking that away from them, no matter how indirectly. Just as with capitalism within a single country, the richest are receiving all the benefits and the poor are left to face the consequences. Capitalism is affecting those who do not even participate in the global system- how is this fair? By looking at climate change in terms of violence on other peoples and acknowledging the importance of saving cultures, perhaps we can call more attention to this issue and get a new group of advocates to step up.




Going to Pottery Barn

History repeats itself is a quote that is important to learn about. However in the past manny have pillaged, colonised, and messed up the world through various means. By understanding the violence that the past has been through hope for a better future arises. The article talks about the events in history from ISIS, Pakistan, Syria, Attila the Hun, and other important events. Using these examples and Pottery Barn’s slogan “If you break it you bought it” allows this generation to comprehend what their actions do. Thus the examples the writer uses convey the importance of striving for a better future. If everything in the world is destroyed then nothing will be left for the future.

Anthropologically this is important because it connects to the violence section of the course. Having a dog eat dog world, world peace will never exist. Moreover the article poses the question to who is at fault for world issues. People stigmatise the statement of I did not do it. However it is important to man up for ones mistakes to be able to know the truth, learn to reconcile, and lastly to forgive. Once this is learned it is possible to improve societies discriminations towards others and rebuild itself for a utopian future not the dystopian one we hare headed to experience.


Anthropology and Climate Change

The world is coming to an end climate change is taking over. However according to anthropological research done by Merrill Singer through the report of the August 13, 2014 issue of Arctic News says that “A catastrophe of unimaginable proportions is unfolding in the Arctic Ocean. Huge quantities of methane are erupting from the seafloor of the East Siberian Sea and entering the atmosphere over the Arctic Ocean”. Research done by scientists from Sweden, Russia and the U.S. This affects the world according to Merrill because the USA still thrives on the belief that Climate Change does not exist. In Texas many six grade textbooks were altered to state that climate change does exist but it is not caused by human behaviour. Thus avoiding the education that todays younger generation needs to improve the planets future. According to the article many scientists have proven that climate change is due to human behaviour however Republicans refuse to acknowledge this fact.

With the research done and everything stated hopefully the views of the people in power will change and educate minors in what is happening with out bias and using facts. Questioning science is a mundane thing however rejecting or refusing to believe the facts will affect the future and maintain the ignorance of society.


Anthropology, the environment and development

Today’s environment is constantly changing due to climate change and developing more buildings on local land.

From the anthropological perspective according to authors, Elizabeth Croll and David Parkin, who wrote Bush Base, Forest Farm: Culture, Environment, and Development, local people’s knowledge and use of the surrounding environment through language is broken by change of the cultural and physical environment. Therefore, the traditional skills of these people living locally and depending on the survival of the environment are practically gone. For example, for the native tribes living in the Amazon, they depend on the medicinal qualities of the plants to help heal any illnesses/diseases. So, if the Amazon trees are getting cut, then these plants are being destroyed, causing culture loss and diversity for the people living there. To prevent this, organizations are allowing local populations to fully share in the available power and be permitted uncontrolled access to their own natural resources while living within their own cultural and social contexts.

From an ecological standpoint, the authors believe in sustainable development for every country because it allows countries to grow and develop but at the same time remaining firmly attached to the ecological roots. Currently, developing countries are most at risk because they continue to over-exploit their soils, over-graze fragile grasslands, and cut dwindling forest stocks, causing depletion of the environment. Again, to prevent this, international, national, and local communities have been increasing recognized achievement of sustainable development to save the environment.

In conclusion, the environment is very important to who we are as human beings since it is a part of our national identity. Destroying it lets us also destroy the ecological perspectives and roots that we have gained from protecting it from harm. And for the people who depend on the environment for everyday usage need to thrive as well in order to preserve the culture they come from.

Reference: Croll, Elizabeth and David Parkin. Bush Base, Forest Farm: Culture, Environment, and Development. Reutledge, London; 1992.

Climate Change Clash

There is clear evidence that climate change is a growing issue in today’s world as seen by the rising temperatures of the earth. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts a possible temperature rise of above 20 degrees Celsius within this century as a worst-case scenario situation. Virtually all scientists (97%) agree on the cause of earth’s changing climate: human behavior. Despite the overwhelming evidence there are still people who deny climate change. These deniers tend to be grouped into 3 categories. The first are the skeptics who tend to lack respect towards anything that scientists have to say. They often believe that these scientists are receiving social recognition for their left wing conspiracies. The second tier is a set of individuals and organizations that push uncertainty into the public’s view about climate change. The last group consists of corporations that have invested economic power in blocking legislation that work to control climate change and they aim to fund denier campaigns.

Skepticism is a not a bad thing and is needed in science due to its skeptical nature. True skepticism however takes all of the evidence and reaches a conclusion rather than picking pieces of evidence to prove a point and ignoring the evidence that doesn’t fit the point. There is a clear difference between skepticism and ignoring clear facts. This relates to Deborah Tannen’s article, “Fighting for Our Lives,” which outlines the argument culture in our society. People tend to think there are only 2 sides to every issue and fail to recognize anything in-between. We also pick and choose facts to support certain arguments and leave out other evidence that doesn’t prove a particular point. The goal in our arguments is not to listen and understand but rather to do whatever it takes to win. The deniers of climate change generally don’t try and understand the other point of view, they just cherry pick evidence to fight the opposing side’s argument.

Reference: Singer, Merrill. “Climate Change Denial: The Organized Creation and Emotional Embrace of Unsupported Science Claims.” Anthropology News. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Nov. 2014.

Climate Change is Partial to Men

Gender influences many aspects of a person’s life. It can influence what job they will have, how much they will get paid, what decisions they’ll make, and many more. There is, however, an difference in environmental impact associated with gender. In Climate Change Isn’t Gender Neutral, Merrill Singer writes about the different impacts of climate change to each respective gender. The stem of the gender-differentiated risks is the “normal” gender inequalities. These gender inequalities include education, access to income, and societal responsibilities.

In the low income area’s studied, women are the homemakers; acquiring water, watching crops, and up keeping household health maintenance. Events caused by climate change is making women’s chores more difficult. Not only that, but it makes women more susceptible to injury. Women are expected to continue with their chores, and any additional chores brought upon by extreme weather, while possibly fighting malnutrition, infection, or a combination of sorts. These health risks are not the only risks women face from climate change, there is a heightened risk of assault, theft, and rape in these types of conditions.

The current research of climate change is mostly focused on the physical consequences to the land we live on. The social aspect of this is equally as important. “Without attention to gender there can be no effective adaptation to the challenges of climate change and hence no sustainable human future.” It is important for us as a species to understand the social ramifications as well as the physical ones and how that could change the future.

“Climate Change Isn’t Gender Neutral” Merrill Singer

The Inequality In Climate Change

imagesMost often when climate change is talked about, the focus is on the effects that the environment is facing and evolving into. While climate change deserves the scientific attention it’s been receiving, for it is the fuel to how we will understand it, often we are left with an unspoken fear: How is this going to affect us?

Resources. Climate change is going to affect our resources and who has access to them. We can only imagine how this is going to play out when we look at different cultures and resource availability around the world today, especially to different social classes and even different genders. In Merrill Singer’s article, Climate Change Isn’t Gender Neutral, he raises the issue that the roles and restrictions of women around the world will be challenged. For a specific example, he calls upon Terry Cannons review in Bangladesh of flood related issues and the contamination of water. Often it can inhibit women’s ability to stay in safe areas, and can infringe on their livelihood, as well as their chores. He also talks about how cultural restrictions of women not being allowed in public would put them at risk in the event of seeking shelter or other ways they would need to deal with the environmental changes.

It is clear that in the near future, our different cultures are going to be put to the test. Inequalities will become more visible than ever and the foundations for bridging the gaps will be harder. However, studying these inequalities we have the ability to understand them, how different cultures work, and how they will need to work in the future.

Social Murder Through Anthropogenic Climate Change

As humans, we are very much aware of our contributions to the current climate change that is associated with images of polar bears struggling to survive on what’s left of the melting glaciers and satellite images of the depleting ozone layer. What we are not quite aware of is how our negative impact on the environment affects the health of the human population.

Anthropogenic climate change, which is simply another way of saying climate change caused by humans, has recently been categorized as a form of social murder. The degradation of health caused by climate change can be tolerated in some parts of the world more than others, creating a wedge between societies. Although highly developed countries such as the U.S. emit the highest levels of greenhouse gases, they feel the smallest impact because of the resources they can afford that allow them to adapt. Developing countries in places like Ethiopia and Cambodia do not have these resources, cannot adapt to climate change, and do have higher mortality rates because of this failure to adapt. But is it fair that they are the recipients of this pressure to adapt when they produce the least amounts of greenhouse gases?

People tend to react to a problem when it directly affects their own lives. They need to be further educated about how their actions impact the environment and the lives of others. Cultural and medical anthropologist, Merrill Singer, calls for “urgent consideration of ethnographically informed pathways to sustainability that counter the march towards environmentally triggered disease and social collapse.” Unfortunately, it will take until climate change starts to diminish the health of people in developed countries for there to be a real movement against the destructive actions in those places.

References: http://somatosphere.net/2014/09/climate-change-and-planetary-health.html

Nostalgic About Nostalgia: The Complex Results of Meaning-Making

Michael Harkin’s “California Dreamin’” article took me back to one of my Cultural Anthropology discussions about how environment/space has potential to influence culture through personal experiences.

In Harkin’s piece, he discusses how his most recent trip to Walt Disneyland, with his child, made him long for his own childhood as he became increasingly nostalgic over the course of his visit. Harkin describes his nostalgia through the lens of someone who grew up in Southern California and he suggests that the nostalgia he experienced while at Disneyland was the deliberate intentions of those who design Disneyland’s exhibits. Disneyland encouraged a specific type of nostalgia for Harkin; a type of nostalgia that is ideal to a person who experienced a midwestern, town that revolves around the typical “Main Street USA,” while showing heavy signs of late 1800 influence.

Harkin effectively describes the complexity of nostalgia by suggesting that, “nostalgia operates as a sort of prism, refracting all primary experience: thus, I could be nostalgic for my parents’ nostalgia for the Midwest in a seemingly simpler time, seen from the troubled 1960s.” Through this complexity, we can see how a place can influence ones experiences/feelings. In addition to this, we can even use a place to make conclusions about the long term cultural effects a location has on a group of people.

Anthropology can be used to better understand the designs of spaces and the specific visual/environmental tools used to induce certain emotions. We continue to see the heavy effects of environment on culture especially in an age where cultural diversity continues to decline. An example on the heavy influence environment has on culture can be seen in the film “Sun Come Up, where the viewer is exposed to the troubling effects of climate change on Carteret Islanders. In this film, we can see how the relocation of the Carteret leads to the eventual end of their culture because their culture is rooted in island life with no exposure to the market economy.

Referenced: < http://www.anthropology-news.org/index.php/2014/04/24/california-dreamin/ >

Referenced: Film: Sun Come Up