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Religion and Environment

Exploring Spiritual Ecology

Leslie E. Sponsel

Many scholars have touched on the relationships between religion and nature since the work of late nineteenth-century anthropologists such as Edward B. Tylor. This is almost inevitable in studying some religions, especially indigenous ones. Nevertheless, only since the 1950s has anthropological research gradually been developing that is intentionally focused on the influence of religion on human ecology and adaptation, part of a recent multidisciplinary field that some call spiritual ecology (Merchant 2005; Sponsel 2001, 2005a, 2007a, 2007b, 2007c; S. Taylor 2006). At last this ecological approach is beginning to receive some attention in textbooks on the anthropology of religion, ecological anthropology, human ecology, and environmental conservation, though it is still uncommon in the anthropological periodicals (Bowie 2006; Marten 2001; Merchant 2005; Russell and Harshbarger 2003; Townsend 2009). This article summarizes a sample of the growing literature and cites other sources to help facilitate the eff orts of those who may find this new subject to be of sufficient interest for further inquiry.

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Annu Jalais

The global 'cosmopolitan' tiger, as opposed to the local 'Sundarbans tiger', has become the rallying point for urbanites' concerns for wildlife protection globally. In this piece, I look at two different representations of tigers in recent history, one colonial and the other national. This so as to highlight how representations, even of wild animals, are ultimately linked to power. This leads me to argue how today's Western-dominated ideas about tigers (a view I call 'cosmopolitan') ultimately act to the detriment of 'other' tigers because these do not allow for an engagement with alternative ways of understanding animals and wildlife. Such images, I try to show using Descola's arguments about nature and understandings of it, in turn perpetrates the coercive and unequal relationship between, in this case, those who partake of the 'cosmopolitan' tiger view versus those who live with 'wild' tigers.

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Arjun Guneratne

This paper examines the emergence in Sri Lanka of transcultural thinking about environmental issues as well as the activism it engenders by examining the role of the Anglophone Sri Lankan elite as the chief protagonists historically of environmentalism in the country. It also examines one of Sri Lanka's leading NGOs, Environmental Foundation Ltd. (EFL) as an example of the activism of this class. EFL's perspective on environmental issues has its origins in the transformations wrought by colonialism in the country's class structure and in the introduction of European ideas of nature to the country's newly emergent middle-class. Modelled on the Natural Resources Defense Council of the United States, EFL was a new kind of environmental organization in Sri Lanka and a response to globalization and Sri Lanka's increasing integration into the global economy. Unlike the handful of environmental NGOS that existed in the late seventies, which were essentially pressure groups, EFL was conceived, on the model of NRDC, as a public interest law firm, and drew on international models to frame its arguments about the application of the law in the cause of environmental protection. This paper examines how these various factors—the social class of the activists and the processes of institution building—shaped a cosmopolitan environmental discourse in Sri Lanka whose roots lie in urban Sri Lankan middle class culture as it emerged and was transformed during colonial rule and in the various discourses of globalization that have been drawn on by Sri Lankan activists to craft their own arguments.

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Hinrich Voss

The purpose of this article is to analyze environmental public participation in the UK from the perspective of the polluting organization. Public participation, or an organization's stakeholder management, describes various channels available for the public to engage with and influence decision-making processes. Over the lifetime of an organization, the public seeks to engage with the organization or with specific goods or services offered. Such concerns and requests are made, and the organization responds to them, according to how salient members of the public are as stakeholders at a given time and place. Using case study examples from the UK, I illustrate the channels of engagement, the public interest groups that do engage and how effective these procedures are. It follows from this that early, inclusive and open engagement with the objective of participation in decision-making processes are the most effective public participation models and have the greatest social quality potential.

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“Plunging the Soul into Contemplation”

On MoMA's Le Corbusier: An Atlas of Modern Landscapes

Nicole C. Rudolph

This article reviews the New York Museum of Modern Art's recent Le Corbusier retrospective and its accompanying catalogue. The author critically evaluates the curators' reassessment of Le Corbusier's legacy via the lens of landscape. A key insight gleaned from the show pertains to technologies of mobility: inspired by the views from the automobile, the steamer, and the airplane, Le Corbusier deployed modern materials and techniques of mass construction in order to maximize an inhabitant's contemplation of the natural world. What we learn from Le Corbusier: An Atlas of Modern Landscapes, the author argues, is that the architect valorized and designed to prioritize “3 Cs”: circulation, composition, and contemplation. The notion of contemplation may be more useful to understanding Le Corbusier's architecture than the concept of landscape.

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Philippe Jeanneaux, Olivier Aznar and Christophe Déprés

This paper proposes to analyze the environmental services provided by farmers in order to clarify the diversity of transactions within the same field. We distinguish two main categories of services: “Service internalization“ corresponding to the internalization of an externality by seeking to modify the joint product, and “Service Delivery“ corresponding to a contract to provide the service. We then cross this characterization with the modes of governance (sectorial vs. territorial) of the environmental services. This analysis allows us, first, to have a better understanding of the dynamics of environmental service supply, and second, to highlight the poor integration of environmental issues in agriculture. The categories generated are illustrated from several empirical studies carried out between 2002 and 2010 in the framework of three research programs.

Spanish Este documento propone caracterizar los servicios ambientales provistos por los agricultores con el fin de clarificar la diversidad de transacciones dentro de la misma denominación. El artículo distingue dos categorías principales de servicios: “la internalización de servicios“ correspondiente a la internalización de una externalidad a través de modificar el producto conjunto, y “la prestación de servicios“ que corresponde a un contrato de prestación de servicio. Los autores cruzan entonces esta caracterización con los modos de gobierno (sectorial vs. territorial) en el que los servicios ambientales se inscriben; cruce que permite, por un lado, comprender la dinámica de la oferta de servicios ambientales, y por otra parte, remarcar la escasa integración de los problemas ambientales en el sector agrícola. Las categorías producidas son ilustradas a partir de varias investigaciones empíricas llevadas a cabo entre 2002 y 2010 en tres programas de investigación.

French Cet article propose de caractériser les services environnementaux fournis par les agriculteurs dans le but de clarifier la diversité des transactions qui relèvent d'une même dénomination. Deux catégories principales de services avec quelques déclinaisons ressortent : le « service d'internalisation » visant à internaliser une externalité en cherchant à modifier le produit joint ; le « service prestation » correspondant à un contrat de prestation de service. Nous croisons alors cette caractérisation avec les modes de gouvernance (sectorielle vs territoriale) dans lesquels les services environnementaux s'inscrivent, croisement qui permet, d'une part, de comprendre les dynamiques d'off re de services environnementaux, et d'autre part, de remarquer la faible intégration des problèmes environnementaux dans le secteur agricole. Les catégories produites sont illustrées à partir de plusieurs investigations empiriques réalisées entre 2002 et 2010 dans trois programmes de recherche.

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The Ecology of Class

Revolution, Weaponized Nature, and the Making of Campesino Consciousness

Christopher R. Boyer

Mexican villagers endured three decades of dispossession during the late nineteenth-century dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz (1876–1880, 1884–1911). The transfer of most lands held by communities known as pueblos led many rural people to join the Mexican revolution of 1910–1917, and it helped to structure the postrevolutionary politics. Using E. P. Thompson's concept of “community,” this article suggests that villagers' sense of solidarity formed by their shared lives within the pueblos, and leavened by collective experiences during the Díaz dictatorship and revolution, helped them to forge a new identity as campesinos with an inherent right to land reform during the postrevolutionary era. A core component of campesino identity was opposition to hacienda owners. This opposition set up a struggle over land during the 1920s and 1930s that led some landowners to “weaponize nature” by destroying natural resources such as forests rather than turning it over to villagers through the land reform.

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'Greater good' in transit

The unwieldy career of a Swedish rail tunnel project

Åsa Boholm

Large-scale technological projects are born as visions among politicians and leaders of industry. For such visions to become real, they must be transformed from a virtual existence in the minds of their creators to a reality that can be accepted, even welcomed, by the public, not least by the communities who will become neighbors to those projects. Democracy implies that political decisions over the expenditure of public funds should answer not merely to the partial interests of stakeholders but should be accountable to the 'greater good' of society at large. Since a technological project materializes in what Latour calls a 'variable ontology-world', the greater good associated with it can be expected to be dynamic and shifting. The Hallandsås railway tunnel in southwestern Sweden illustrates how the very premises of the project's organizational logic have changed over time, the discourse of the greater good moving from an economical focus to an environmental one.

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Daniel Newman, Peter Wells, Paul Nieuwenhuis, Ceri Donovan and Huw Davies

This article considers electric cars as socio-technical experiments in meeting mobility requirements. There have been numerous trials and government incentives to promote such vehicles, but with a notable lack of success. The article thus seeks to address an urgent need to understand such “transition failure,” which may ultimately impact upon how progress is measured in sociotechnical transitions. Presenting results from a recent research project, it is suggested that shared usage models hold greater potential for achieving sustainable personal mobility. It is concluded, however, that multiple niche experiments present a highly complex situation in which cumulative learning is problematic.

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Eva L. Hulse, Dustin M. Keeler, Ezra B.W. Zubrow, Gregory J. Korosec, Irina Y. Ponkratova and Caitlin Curtis

In 2009, a team of archaeologists from the State University of New York at Buffalo and Northeastern State University at Magadan completed the first year of a three-year archaeological and geological project near Nerpich'e (Nerpich'ye) Lake on Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula. This research will explore the relationship between mid-Holocene human settlement and environmental changes due to volcanic and seismic activity and climate. The Kamchatka Peninsula contains detailed tephra stratigraphy from the mid-Holocene, which will enable detailed chronological reconstruction of social and environmental change. Preliminary results indicate that human settlement locations remained stable over long periods of time, despite repeated volcanic eruptions.