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Jamon Alex Halvaksz and Heather E. Young-Leslie

The literature on environment-animal-human relations, place, and space, tends to emphasize cultural differences between global interests and local environmental practices. While this literature contributes substantially to our understanding of resource management, traditional ecological knowledge, and environmental protection, the work of key persons imbricated in both global and local positions has been elided. In this article, we propose a theory of “ecographers” as individuals particularly positioned to relate an indigenous epistemology of the local environment with reference to traditional and introduced forms of knowledge, practice, and uses of places, spaces, and inter-species relationships. We ground our analysis in ethnographic research among two Pacific communities, but draw parallels with individuals from varied ethnographic and environmental settings. This new concept offers a powerful cross-cultural approach to ecological strategizing relationships; one grounded by local yet globally and historically inflected agents of the present.

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Introduction

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.