Physical Anthropology

What is Environmental Anthropology

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"What is Environmental Anthropology"
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Environmental Anthropology is the study of humans in their vast array of cultures and activities, in relation to nature and the environment. Using education in social, cultural , physical and natural sciences, specialists attempt to understand environmental issues. The goal is to consider both Western and other perspectives, especially indigenous perspectives on the ways that humans live and operate in a world that has increasing challenges due to changes and hazards to the environment that supports life.

There is a vast playing field of historical, social and cultural issues that have been put aside, as biological and physical matters have recieved the attention. As with many official fields of the sciences "integrated analysis" is becoming a more relevant, if complex way of studying humans and the environment.

The term "ethno", which means identifiable peoples, people or ethnic divisions of people, is being applied to many of the physical and natural sciences. Examples are ethnobiology and ethnobotany and ethnoeconomics and even ethnomathematics, which calls for broad educations, understandings and applications of the principles of anthropology, the social sciences, linguistics, advanced statistical analysis and modeling and the physical and natural sciences as well.

Environmental Anthropology must also consider world health, political, economic, justice, trade and international relations issues. The issues of plant biology, for example, as related to the drug industry alone is loaded with a need for anthropological approaches to collecting indigeneous knowledge about medicinal plants. This knowledge tend to be fragile as it is undocumented and is passed orally from generation to generation.

Also, issues of economics and international justice in compensating countries for the plants and the knowledge are rising. Politically, there are issues of destroying habitat, environments and even beneficial plants in the conversion of land for industrial development and timber harvesting. Wars are good for decimating biomes, people and indigenous knowledge of the ancient and sustainable ways of living with nature.

All of these complex and interrelated factors, global impacts, macro and micro economics, cultural and social issues are gently unraveled by environmental anthropologists and others who provide the badly needed integrated approaches.

Many universitiesoffer degree majors or concentrations within anthropology degrees or often through the anthropology departments.

As with many of the integrated fields, environmental anthropologists mostly work in universities and colleges, in government positions and in industry as analysists, field researchers, teachers and in laboratory research.

Definition of "ethno" from the Insitute of Ethnomathematics

University of Washington example of an academic program in Environmental Anthropology

More about this author: Elizabeth M Young

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