Saturday, May 16, 2009

Extra Credit #3

An article by Segun Ogungbemi called "An African Perspective on the Environmental Crisis" along with a video by Jane Goodall [] on helping animals and humans living together opened my eyes to some of the environmental problems in poor countries in Africa. It was interesting to find out that Africans want the Western modern lifestyle and how they are destroying the ecosystem by doing anything and everything to achieve that kind of life. It’s was also disturbing to hear how human activities have greatly affected the simple things in life like land, water and air. This idea is reinforced in Jane Goodall’s presentation. She explained how they are cutting down trees and using as much resources as they can find which leaves little or no resources and chimpanzees without their natural habitat. I think developing countries should know the negatives or problems associated with the Western lifestyle so they stop desiring it and save themselves from the destruction of the environment. That is another problem that I find unbelievable. Many people in Africa are poor and uneducated so they don’t understand what is affecting what in the environment. This is unfortunate because education can help with a lot of issues. In regards to population, I think Jane Goodall mentioned how as women became educated, the birth rates dropped. If more woman continue to be educated, then this will help with the issue of overpopulation and in turn control the rapid destruction of the environment.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Discussion #12

Reflect on the readings from C&C chapters 11, 13, 17, 37, and 38. Pick three of these to discuss in detail in relationship to the film "Black Gold."

First, based on these case studies and the film, what do you think the relationship is between environmental sustainability, economic development, and human health?

What roles could applied anthropologists play in assisting people in these goals?

And finally, do you think cultural survival is possible with economic development? Why or why not? How could applied anthropologists assist in ensuring cultural survival along with improvement in people's material lives?

Based on the case studies and the film, I think that increased economic development leads to less sustainable environmental practices and a decline in human health. It seems like when people try to develop economically they tend to exploit their resources to get the most they can out of it, and this can result in starvation and poor health. Health and sustainability don’t seem to be important until later when the problems build and are realized. In the article on the Malawi versus the World Bank, we see how economic development led this small country to overuse or exhaust their land, which then led to a decrease in the production of maize. With less maize being produced, the people begin to starve. Another example of this is the article on Easter Island. People began to use too much of their environmental resources and the bird and sea mammal populations, which were a major source of their food. This all became depleted and eventually led to the destruction of their society.
I think anthropologists could play the role of an educator. They could help people focus on what is important to their culture and can inform people, especially the poor, of economic development and it’s effects. They should provide information on the current problems and issues associated with environmental sustainability and human health and how to deal with them so they can avoid them. Also, it would be beneficial to learn what is or what isn’t a sustainable practice. This idea reminds me of Tadesse Meskela because he is an educated individual who helps the people of Ethiopia who are not able to receive an education. He tries to provide justice and fairness to the people of Ethiopia and I think that is important for poor countries. In the article by Richard Reed we see how combining a traditional technique like slash-and-burn agriculture with commercial harvesting of natural products is sustainable. From this, anthropologists could show people how to combine sustainable practices like those used in the past with modern practices.
I think cultural survival is possible with economic development but can be difficult. Cultures need to remember what is important to them and know both the positives and negatives associated with economic development. I think the problem with some societies is that they get way ahead of themselves and want to make money fast and exploit whatever, and as much as they can without considering the consequences. Development does not need to be fast, and could take time. To avoid the problems of environmental sustainability and human health, cultures should practice sustainable techniques and use only what they need (moderation). Again, applied anthropologists could educate. Those that are uneducated will need help in understanding the various problems and issues and how to solve them. They should also encourage people not to overuse their resources and try to use only what they need. They can then help cultures to develop in better ways.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Discussion #11

During the video I felt a sense of unity as many people all over the world came together to join in on the dancing. It made me smile to see all of these different people dance, laugh and have fun in different locations. It made me want to dance! I also felt joy and hope because dancing is something many can relate to and brings people together. Even though the video was shot in different locations it all feels like one joyous place for self-expression through an art like dancing. This is probably why it resonates with so many people. The video inspires joy and hope to those who watch it through people coming together to experience the joy in movement.

The arts seem to be a human universal because it allows creative expression. People can express their life or emotions in various ways through the arts. A lot of times I see the arts impact emotion. They can bring about various emotions and vice versa. I guess this can integrate with culture by allowing people to use the arts to creatively express what their culture is about or their feelings and emotions. We see cultures use art for emotional purposes when they sing songs to help them through hard times or when people create and write plays through their own emotional life experiences. We can also understand and see variations in cultures by their different techniques in paintings or different movements in dance. Additionally, the arts not only help develop people's individuality but they also help in other areas of life. It can influence people to become more creative in developing new technologies or improving/solving issues and problems. Overall I think art is an important aspect of a culture and contributes to a good balance in life.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Discussion #10

What commonalities among all the religions can you perceive?
What was one new thing you learned from the film about another particular religion or religious leader?
What do you think the value of understanding other religions is?

After watching the film on the various religious leaders it seems like religion focuses on bettering people for the common good of humanity and life. One of the leaders in the video mentions how religion is a source of great compassion to humanity. We see this as religion helps people to understand life and how to live it. With Buddhism, their religion focuses on how they can change their behavior to have a good life and be happy. Some religions have religious text that provide valuable information or readings that help guide people's behavior. The video mentions how the clergy or religious leaders are there to help guide others and even correct behavior by showing them right from wrong. This is another way for people to better understand life. I think all religions recognize that there is a conflict in life between good and bad and religion helps people to focus on goodness and kindness. Another commonality of religion is the community aspect. I saw in the video how many people come together as a group in different settings, like a churches or temples, to practice their religion.
I learned a lot from the film and was intrigued by a couple of different things. It was interesting to see how the Islamic religious leader would listen to the problems of her people and put herself in their position so that she could understand and essentially feel what they are feeling. This was surprising for me because I haven't really seen a religious leader work with individuals on somewhat of an intimate level before.
There is great value in understanding other religions. There are so many people all over the world that are religious and I think it is important to understand the different religions because many of these people apply it to their life. If we begin understanding these different religions then we can begin understanding and accepting other people. I also think that each religion has something great to offer. If we look into these religions we may find that some religious practices and principles could contribute to a better life on Earth and help with current issues that are happening in the world today.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Discussion #9

I think the purpose of marriage is to legally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally unite two people that are in love and committed to each other. I also believe that marriage is an important step that precedes having children. In terms of a family I think “normal” is just having people whether they are blood related or not love, support, and care for one another. My family consists of me, my brother, parents, and relatives. My family’s purpose in my life is to love and care for me, provide for me and help me grow, as well as support me until I’m ready to leave and live independently or whenever I'm in need of it.

This is different from other cultures. It was surprising to see how marriage is used for economic purposes. In the Masai culture, men married many women in order to increase wealth and security. The more women a man married, the more children he could have and the more workers he had to do work. In one of the readings of the Tibetans in Northern Nepal, groups of brothers were married to only one woman. This helped to preserve their family resources and prevent instability. These marriages are also different from my view of marriage because people are allowed to marry more than one person. The arranged marriages of the Bhils in India are different from my view of marriage in that families decide who you marry and you basically have to live with a total stranger. There is no time for dating or building up a relationship, which I think should come before marriage. The approval of lineage mates in an arrange marriage is similar to how families in the US meet up with the family of who their child is marrying to discuss plans of marriage. In both types of marriages, family or lineage is an important part of the process. Another difference I noticed is how in the marriages of India or the Masai culture, women may leave their home to live with their husband and his family. They not only give their self to the husband, but also their labor, loyalty, and children. Men and women in the US have more of a choice of where they want to live and what they want to do. It seems like in the cultures that we learned about, there are a lot of rules or expectations for what a family has to do or how to behave but in the US there is more choice. The diversity in how people view sexuality, marriage, and family did not surprise me because there is already a lot of differences here in the US alone so I figured there would be even more throughout the whole world. Many cultures have their own ways of doing things and I have realized that different things work for different people because we are not the same.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Discussion #8

One of the similarities in gender of our society and the Masai is that woman do a lot of “caring work.” In the Masai video we see how women care for their children and the husband’s cattle and they do household chores. In our society women mostly are the ones who take care of children and do household work. Women in the Masai seem to not have as much of a freedom in what they do. They have to attach to a male and have children in order to have a good life. Males in that society receive status through having many wives and children and large land. In the US males achieve status through wealth and their occupation. Women have more freedom in what they do instead of being forced to marry.

There is value in having genders in that roles are different and so there is variety in who does what. Traditionally, men have specific roles and women have other roles so they know what their job is. One of the challenges in gender is dealing with inequality. One gender may be seen as more “dominating” and therefore causing people to be upset. Another problem with this is that not everyone wants to stick to those roles. We see this as roles in the US change. In the article of Global Women in the New Economy, more women are joining the workforce. The problem with this is that as both males and females are in the workforce, the issue of who takes care of the children arises. Children are having to be cared for by people other than the parents. For the Masai culture, if for example the women were given more or different rights, then their original roles would need to be fulfilled by someone else.

There are times when cultural worldviews about gender tie in to human rights. Many times in various cultures, women are treated unfairly and unequally. We see this in the Masai culture as men are allowed to beat their wives and not given much choice. It is difficult to say if something can be done in cultures where there is gender inequality. Sometimes people in cultures of gender inequality accept it. To use the Masai culture again as an example, women accept gender stratification as a result of women’s mistakes in the past. They blame their given role and decreased rights or abilities in their society on the women who neglected their herd long ago. I don’t think others can tell people of other cultures what’s wrong or right so cultures should make the decision to change on their own. When inequality exists and becomes a major problem for the majority of the population, then something really needs to be done.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Discussion #6

There are many things that can be done to help improve the lives of people all over the world. I think it's important to educate people about the concerns and issues of consumerism so they can understand the situation. Maybe more commercials about the negative effects of these problems and how people can do their part will motivate some. Consumer habits need to change. It would be great if people only consumed things that they needed to survive, nothing extra or more. With this idea, there would need to be a stop in producing the many things we don't need. I think attitude also needs to be changed. The government's focus needs to shift back to the people. People should stop worrying about achieving more power or being in competition with others. Shopping as a way of life should stop being promoted because it makes people buy more and more things that are unnecessary. Instead of shopping people should spend their time on things that matter, like with family or friends. Maybe if people did activities that involved interacting with the environment they would appreciate it more and do less to destroy or exploit it. This may lead to better waste management and preservation of the environment. Outsourcing and overusing resources needs to stop. Resources should be used in a way that it can keep up with the demand and prevent from being depleted. Corporations need to stop thinking about themselves and not exploit those in third world countries and take land from people. These are just some ideas but I think combined they will help lessen the gap between the rich and poor and begin to make life more sustainable.