10 May, 2009

weekly discussion #12 (anth 101, class) + extra credit #3

Reflect on the readings from C&C chapters 11, 13, 17, 37 and 38. Pick three of these to discuss in detail in relationship to the film "Black Gold."

First based on these case studies and the film, what do you think the relationship is between environmental sustainability, economic development and human health?

What roles could applied anthropologists play in assisting people in these goals?

And finally, do you think cultural survival is possible with economic development? Why or why not? How could anthropologists assist in ensuring cultural survival along with improvement in people's material lives?

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The film "Black Gold" highlighted the African coffee farmers and their struggles. Like the Guarani spoken about in C&C chapter 13, they depend on their farming techniques to grow their coffee in hopes of a fair trade price to sustain them. The Guarani us a slash-and-burn method which preserves and enriches the soil that their plants consume in the regular harvesting process by renewing it tri-annually. Being forced to conform is killing them, bringing disease and harmful industrialism to their land and destroying the land they depend on for survival.

Because their land is being destroyed and they themselves even have to destroy the land and their healthy coffee crops in order to make way for other crops that are more profitable, out of desperation, the economy of Africa is being harmed greatly by outside "aid." The World Bank organization, for example, forces third world countries into dependance on first world countries and leaves them no options but to accept their aid and conform to their standards and rules. It requires countries like Africa to become reliant on their aid in such a way that it is almost impossible for them to break away and become economically stable and sustainable on their own.

Environmental sustainability, economic development and human health are all inter-related. In order to maintain a healthy human life humans must have a sustaining environment in which to harvest food, create shelter and clothes, become educated and have the clean food, water and living arrangements that are crucial to warding off disease. Unfortunately, as with most things in life, it is hard to secure such things without money. With the world economy growing as it is, and the focus becoming more and more on the world's pocketbook as a whole, third world countries are getting pushed to the wayside unless they reach out for the "helping" hand of larger, more powerful countries. Because of the lack of personal economic growth the sustainability of their houses, well-being and educations are being compromised as well as their basic life-needs such as food, water and medicine.

As I said before, most governmental organizations who reach out are only in it for what it brings back to them; this is where I believe anthropologists can and should step in. Anthropologists study people, people and their ways of life, no better do I think a person than to reach out and bridge the gap between power hungry governments and hurting people. I'm not saying the power hungry governments are just going to go away, but governments do tend to listen a little better when a trained scientist tells them something. Well, sometimes. It's better than just a random person off the street, anyway. Either way, I believe it's worth a shot - and anthropologists need to take the risks for the people who can't and step in and assist where possible. People who know and want to help people need to be the ones who do, not power hungry politicians who simply know how to toss their weight around and hit the most people while their down.

I do think cultural survival is possible with economic development, to some extent. In order to trade powerfully, lower-income countries with less presence in the global marketplace need to make it some priority to form a presence in the global marketplace. And in this global marketplace things are done certain ways. Some of these ways are not in line or familiar to certain cultures, which makes it extremely difficult for certain cultures to participate. This is where I think anthropologists can come in, in this case. As with the man who was the ambassador as it were for the African coffee farmers so can anthropologists assist in being the middle men. I think it is important for the people who need the help to get the help but with the least amount of meddling as possible. The more "middle men" that anthropologists can help educate in the ways of how the outside marketplace works the more that knowledge will spread. I believe then the countries who need to be involved but do things differently culturally will be able to function within both settings. Just as at school we students act students and in our workplaces we act employee, it will give them adaptability and knowledge of both and therefore more abilities without harming their cultural traditions too much.

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Share one book, video or website that dramatically changed the way you think about other people, the world you live in, yourself, your nation, your culture or your religion.

It cannot be anything that was given out in class.

Briefly summarize the item you chose. Then, explain how it affected you and what you learned from it.

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I recently read a book titled "Ɯberbower" by Josef Joffe. He is a German author who now resides in the states and writes about how the outside world views America. As Americans we tend to like to be in everybody else's business and we always seem to be "helping" someone. That is exactly what Joffe's book is about. It follows the fall of Soviet Russia, the Berlin Wall and leads up to the time now when America seems to the world to be the lone "top dog", as it were, in the world of power at the time.

He notes in his book how we always have our noses in someone else's business, as I said, and of course we're "only helping." But in reality, why are we there? One of the Norwegian students in one of my other classes is always questioning that. He has mentioned that to Norway, as well as to much of the rest of the world, America feels like a big brother and a leader in such things as the ways of life, but he also questions why we feel we must be involved with or do everything for everyone.

There is the argument on the other side that if America doesn't step up no one else will, but to a certain extent I think that if that is the case it is only that way as of now because we always have "stepped up to the plate" and now everyone else is just used to it. Now that "America's got it" why would anyone else bother, and why should they? If given the opportunity to have someone else do everything for me I wouldn't turn it down! At the same time, still, does America really need to be involved with the entire world at the same time and fighting everyone's wars for them? Maybe it should be more of an ally thing, more togetherness and less apartness.

I digress; his book really opened my eyes to another perspective on America's involvement in the rest of the world because while he questions the extent of the involvement from an outsider's perspective he also applauds and thanks from the same perspective. I would most certainly recommend it as a read.

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