New Featured Article!

“Anthropological Engagement with the Anthropocene”

February 22, 2017

The latest Environment and Society featured article is now available! This month’s article, “Anthropological Engagement with the Anthropocene: A Critical Review,” comes from Volume 6 (2015), a special issue on the Anthropocene. In their review of anthropology’s evolving engagement with the Anthropocene, HannahGibson and Sita Venkateswar contemplate multifarious approaches to research and discuss critical engagement discussed including anthropology beyond disciplinary borders, queries writing in the Anthropocene, and anthropology of climate change.

Visit the featured article page to download your copy of the article today before it’s gone! A new article is featured every month.

“It is not a concrete state of ‘being’ but a process of becoming. For example, consider that a rider on a horse has to some extent ‘become’ like a horse in order to interact, connect, and think with the horse, just as we can say that an animal may ‘become human’” (Gibson and Venkateswar 2015: 13). Photograph by Pranav Bhasin via Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

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Present Progressive?

Of Cell Phones and Energy Transitions in the Anthropocene

September 28, 2016

Sarah Strauss

The first week of September was a rather busy one, beginning with the announcement by the Subcomission on Quaternary Stratigraphy’s Working Group on the Anthropocene (AWG), reporting their vote for the onset of the Anthropocene Epoch. In their report to the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS), the Working Group favored the nuclear fallout of 1950s as a defining moment, though only one of several candidates that must still be considered before the designation of type location for the Anthropocene’s golden spike. A “golden spike” is a physical marker for the lower boundary of a geologic period, as defined by a Global Boundary Stratotype Section and Point (GSSP), which must be specified by a unit of the International Commission on Stratigraphy. So, the AWG must decide what signal demonstrates most clearly and continuously the reality of anthropogenic dominance on the geologic processes of the planet. Most often, this is done by designation of a type fossil; in the case of the Anthropocene, a leading candidate is the domestic chicken. Just think about that one: dinosaurs have literally come home to roost…

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Can We Hear Them Now?

Listening to Inuit Voices in Arctic Policy and Research

April 27, 2016

Megan Sheremata

Despite action in Paris, we still need to listen to Inuit peoples in climate change research to better inform decision-making in the years to come

Arctic Indigenous peoples have thrived under some of the globe’s most extreme environmental conditions. Despite the dramatic impacts of climate change on the Canadian Arctic, which is occurring at twice the global rate, Inuit peoples in Canada aim to continue living and hunting on their traditional lands at the top of the world. But without adequate access to adaptation funding, the next generations of Inuit may not be able to effectively do so. Arctic leaders at COP21 this past December in Paris stressed that the unprecedented pace of anthropogenic climate change has made adaptation much more difficult and that northern communities need assistance to adapt to climate change. However, while there is some mention of Indigenous peoples, the final agreement doesn’t appear to have any commitment to work with them.

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Hope for “Just Resilience” on Earth Day

April 22, 2016

Nathan Jessee

This post is presented in this week’s series recognizing Earth Day, Friday, April 22.

This Is Trauma
“This is trauma,” suggested one facilitator as the sun set over a planning meeting for the Isle de Jean Charles band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Tribe – Lowlander Center Resettlement held in January of this year. In a community space raised high above the banks of Bayou Pointe-Au-Chien, a handful of teenagers, adults, and elders from the Isle de Jean Charles band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Tribe had spent the last hour sharing their experiences of storms, flooding, displacement, disrupted community, and racism mediated by environmental crises and the official responses to them.
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Kiribati and Climate Change

The Untold Story

April 20, 2016

Mike Roman

This post is presented in this week’s series recognizing Earth Day, Friday, April 22.

On 16 November 1989, Kiribati Minister of Home Affairs and Decentralization Babera Kirata addressed the general forum at the Small Island States Conference on Sea Level Rise in Malé Island. Highlighting his nation’s concern over the emerging greenhouse effect theory, he stated:

Over the centuries the question of rising in sea level was never heard of. Our ancestors had lived happily for centuries on our islands, without fear that one day, our beautiful homes may be lost as a result of the deterioration in the environment. We in this present generation have inherited those small islands and we are very proud to be owners of the beautiful homes, which our ancestors had secured for us … The ground water would easily become saline, making it impossible to obtain potable water, and agriculture would be destroyed. The plankton upon which fish live on will disappear, and the livelihood of Kiribati people, who depend on fish, would be seriously affected. The effect of rising in sea level, accompanied by strong winds and high waves would be disastrous for Kiribati. (Kirata 1989: 2–3)
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“Something Wicked This Way Comes”

Energy, Modernities, and the AnthropoScene

March 2, 2016

Sarah Strauss

The verdict of the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is clear: we are the dominant species on this planet, and our documented role in the global system gives many (but not all) confidence that the Anthropocene is well named. We need to understand the interactions, impacts, and development of systems to attempt either adaptation or mitigation with respect to our changing climate, recalling that unintended consequences must always be counted. As they say, there is no planet B, no other place where externalities can be stored for later disposal. Of course, wicked problems like climate change are nothing new. They resist resolution because they are difficult to define/multicausal (unlike the ozone hole); have incomplete or changing parameters, such that “solving” one part of problem generates new ones; and have no clear solution, just better or worse options (Rittel and Webber 1973). Wicked problems are socially complex and generally require behavioral or cultural changes of significant proportions. Examples of these, such as climate change, energy transitions, water management, and biodiversity loss, are also the hallmark of the Anthropocene: they are “socionatural” transformations that we have set in motion ourselves, and the ones I have mentioned all have strong connections with each other. Here, I focus on energy.
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A Conversation on Climate Change in the Papua New Guinea Islands

February 24, 2016

Patrick Nason and John Aini

Ranguva Solwara Skul, Kaselok Village, New Ireland Province, Papua New Guinea

Participants: Sekunda Aini, Michael Tarere, Ambrose Kolmaris, Hagar Boskuru, Bernard Miller Silakau, Wilson Tonias, GomanMatas

On 13 December 2015, the authors and participants gathered at the headquarters of Ailan Awareness, a locally owned environmental NGO in New Ireland Province, Papua New Guinea, to talk about climate change. Eight of the nine of us reside in Lovongai Village in the nearby island of New Hanover. The majority of our conversation was focused on changes that were occurring in that particular village, with useful comparisons being made to “mainland” New Ireland. This was, in part, a local response to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) held in Paris earlier in the month.
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Supermythologies and Superenvironments

January 11, 2016

Jamon Halvaksz

I’ve been thinking a lot about superheroes and their worlds. This past term I taught a class, The Anthropology of Superheroes, where the big question posed was, “How can we study superheroes as anthropologists?” In addition to reading graphic novels and discussing cosplay and real-life superheroes, we also did collaborative event ethnography (Brosius and Campbell 2010) at the Alamo City Comic Con. I called it a swarm ethnography. I’ll admit, I’m a bit of a nerd and certainly a fan of the genre. However, what really interest me about superheroes are the imagined futures and alternative multiverses in which they live.
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Copses of Corpses

Uneasy Synecdoche and Nonhuman Suffering of Climate Change

December 23, 2015

Karen Holmberg

This post is the final in a series on the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) held in Paris, France, from 30 November to 12 December 2015.

The suffering of trees suddenly bothers me. As a child, I had a close friendship with a tree. I did not anthropomorphize him in the least; he was already the cognizant creature he was, and I was honored he would listen to me. He never spoke back, mind you, but I knew he understood. We had different languages but communication, of course, is more than verbal. I would hug his trunk and feel a sense of calm after telling him my stories. I visited for many years after leaving home. We lost contact at some point as adult life took over my mind. More recently, I have written a grammar of trees drawing on random thoughts from other trees I’ve met. I suppose it’s an attempt to find a language that could allow me to speak a bit more with my childhood tree friend. I regret that we’ve have lost touch.
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There Is No Planet B

A Message from NYU’s Gallatin Global Design Professors – Part 2

December 22, 2015

Peder Anker, Louise Harpman, Mitchell Joachim

This post is part of a series on the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) held in Paris, France, from 30 November to 12 December 2015. Part 1 can be found here. For the latest on the Gallatin professors’ initiatives, be sure to follow Global Design NYU on Twitter.

In advocating Global Design, we do not regard the periphery as our antagonist. The periphery is defined by boundaries—disciplinal and spatial, as well as intellectual. What we propose is to collapse the global and the local, since environmental problems are not limited to a particular location. We call on all practitioners of architecture, the related design disciplines, and all the actors and agents who imagine their practices scaling to address different aspects of the environment to become active agents of social change.
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