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.

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