The Role of Anthropology in the Global Sustainability Movement: Maintaining the Small While Transforming the Large

By Paul Derby.

Published by The Sustainability Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Although the field of anthropology is well positioned to evaluate and foster the global sustainability movement, it has not taken a leadership role in this global discourse. The cause rests in antghropology's focus on the study of the small and its adherence to an anti-globalist perspective. Anti-globalists argue that protecting cultural diversity gives humans the best chance at survival and that sustainability cannot happen with continuing social and environmental injustices driven by the globalization of a Western hegemonic worldview. Advocates for a global sustainability movement also recognize these structural flaws but argue that the health of ecology, society, and economy must be understood as interdependent aspects within the interrelated ecosystem that is our shared world. This seeming globalist/anti-globalist divide within anthropology can be bridged by employing an organizing rather than a mobilizing approach to social change. By using an organizing model, anthropology can continue to promote self determination, environmental and social justice, rights to access, and sustainable practices at the community level, and, at the same time, link those community practices into a global sustainability movement.

Keywords: Ecological Anthropology, Organizing Model of Social Change, Global Sustainability, Historical Ecology

The International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp.209-216. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.135MB).

Dr. Paul Derby

Assitant Professor, Sociology Department, Castleton State College, Castleton, Vermont, USA

My research and scholarly interests concentrate on environmental and cultural sustainability. Current research focuses on a small lake-based community in upstate New York, USA. This historical ecology and local history examines cultural and ecological transformations over time and how cultural worldviews affect human understandings of and interactions with the natural environment. This work is contextualized within the global social, political and economic factors of sustainability. Additional advocacy-based research includes the creation of the Green Campus Initiative at the college, participation in the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education and the New England Consortium in Sustainability Practices. Previous field research concentrated on social and religious interactions in north India.


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