This article explores the efforts of an indigenous non-governmental organisation (NGO) to solve two related problems in San Miguel Totonicapán: the lack of clean drinking water and deforestation. Drawing on participant observation conducted during field stays over 10 years and survey data collected over 18 months, the article examines the affordability of bio-sand drinking water filters and high-efficiency wood cooking stoves. It considers whether savings over typical current practices for the procurement of drinking water and cooking fuel off set the purchase price of new sustainable technologies. The article also outlines data-driven recommendations offered to the NGO. While there are significant obstacles to market distribution, the acquisition of a bio-sand water filter or an improved wood stove makes good economic sense for households that presently purchase drinking water or firewood.
Bio-Sand Water Filters and Improved Wood Stoves in San Miguel Totonicapán
A New Journal for Contemporary Environmental Challenges
Paige West, Dan Brockington, Jamon Halvaksz and Michael Cepek
Social scientists have been writing about the relationships between people and their surroundings for as long as there has been social scientific inquiry. Fields such as anthropology, economics, history, human geography, law, political science, psychology, and sociology all have long and rich histories of contributing to and pioneering socio-environmental analysis. However, the past 20 years have seen a proliferation of scholarship in the social sciences that is focused on environmental issues. This is due, in part, to changes in our environment that have profound implications for the future of both human society and the environment. It is also due, in part, to the ways in which environmental practitioners have portrayed the causes of these changes. In the 1970s, social scientists, concerned with the ways in which the causes of environmental changes were being attributed to some peoples and not others, felt that their knowledge of social processes and social systems could shed light on these issues (see Blaikie and Brookfield 1987). They thought that the methods and theories of the social sciences could and should be brought to bear on questions about contemporary environmental changes. Climate change, the water crisis, deforestation, desertification, biodiversity loss, the energy crisis, nascent resource wars, environmental refugees, and environmental justice are just some of the many compelling challenges facing society today that were identified by these early scholars as sites in need of social scientific analysis.