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Environmental Anthropology: A Shift in Focus from Biological to Cultural

January 10, 2009

Environmental Anthropology ( or cultural ecology)  is not entirely new, but what has existed has mainly focused on how humankind affects its local environments (and sometimes global) on the biological level. It is only recently that there has been a shift, or refocus on how human cultures affect these environments. As Americans, we ‘get’ the biological part- we are ever ready for new advances in science and technology to tell us something about ourselves that we do not already know. It seems though, that the gears are grinding into motion in the direction of discovering how who we are affects what we do to our surroundings. Anthropologists such as Julian Steward, Roy Rappaport, and most currently Emilio Moran, have all brought this to the front of anthropology, and given concern for the environment new credibly. With our new cultural push for going green, we are looking at ways to change what we do not only as individuals, but as businesses, local and state communities to be kinder to our environment. It is interesting to watch this develop as an anthropologist. Looking back, I wonder if Julian Steward would be pleased with how our cultural awareness of our environment has developed and where he would think it is going?

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