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Nature as a Concept

Culture:a shared set of meanings that are lived through the material and symbolic practices of everyday life.

Society shapes people's understandings and uses of nature at the same time that nature shapes society.

The Colombian Exchange:Interaction between the Old World and the New World originating with the voyages of Columbus.

Two American field crops: "maize and potatoes had a fundamental advantage over the different sorts of grain that Old World farmers already knew . . .

With suitable growing conditions, they produced more calories per acre-sometimes very many more . . .

It is no exaggeration to say that the swift rise of industrial Germany was the greatest political monument to the impact of American food crops on Europe and on other continents as well." (Seeds of Change)

The reliance on one or two varieties of potato in Ireland also resulted in disaster.

Virgin soil epidemics:conditions in which the population at risk has no natural immunity . . .

"The image of earth as a living organism and nurturing mother had served as a cultural constraint restricting the actions of human beings" (Death of Nature p.3)

As a female, Pacha is addressed as Mama- Pacha Mama, Mother Earth. Pacha Mama is primarily benevolent, although she is also capricious and easily angered.



"One does not readily slay a mother, dig into her entrails for gold or mutilate her body, although commercial mining would soon require that." (Death of Nature p.3)

"We owe our lives to her," Basilia told me, gesturing out over the potato fields. "She nurses the potatoes lying on her breast, and the potatoes nourish us."(Allen 1987 p.45)

"New images of mastery and domination functioned as cultural sanctions for the denudation of nature. Society needed these new images as it continued the processes of commercialism and industrialization." (Death of Nature p.2)

"Our cosmos ceased to be viewed as an organism and became instead a machine" (Death of Nature p.1)

"Mechanical refers to inanimate machines that lacked spontaneity, volition, and thought; and the mechanical sciences."

"Organic: bodily organs, structures, and organization of living beings" (Death of Nature p.xx)

As long as earth was considered to be alive and sensitive, it could be considered a breach of human ethical behavior to carry out destructive acts against it." (Death of Nature p.3)


 "Miners offered propitiation to the deities of the soil and subterranean world, performed ceremonial sacrifices, and observed strict cleanliness and sexual abstinence, and fasting before violating the sacredness of the living earth by sinking a mine." (Death of Nature p.4)

Supay, the lord of the hills, sometimes referred to as Huari and as the Tio, was transmogrified by the Christians as the Devil.

"The miner must believe in the Pachamama and the Tio because of accidents that occur. Man is spiritually weak from the point of view of accidents or propensity to accidents. Without this belief he does not work in confidence. He is always uneasy."(June Nash 1979 pp. 122-125)

When an accident nearly happens, they offer more liquor and coca to the Tio with thanks for saving them . . . The Tio is an explanation for the inexplicable, a rationale for the irrational destiny which is forced on the miner.(June Nash 1979 pp. 162-164)

"Myth is the first attempt people make to explain the world and their place in it." (Nash 1977 p.116)



Human action and environmental change
Political ecology:an approach to cultural geography that studies human-environment relations through the relationships of patterns of resource use to political and economic forces.

Globalization: the increasing interconnectedness of different parts of the world through common processes of economic, environmental, political, and cultural change.

Globalization of the environment: the atmosphere

Acid Rain
the wet deposition of acids upon the Earth created by the natural cleansing properties of the atmosphere.

Global Warming

The Greenhouse Effect Greenhouse gasses trap heat.

Most manmade greenhouse gasses contain carbon.

The Carbon Cycle

Plants remove carbon from the atmosphere producing carbohydrates during photosynthesis. When plant residues get buried in the earth's crust, they slowly generate fossil fuels over millions of years.

Use of Fossil Fuels releases carbon compounds into the atmosphere.

CO2 levels rise trapping heat.

Consequences of Global Warming:
melting icecaps and glaciers, sea level rise, change in precipitation patterns, spread of disease,

Ozone Depletion
losing the planet's natural sunscreen. . .

"Depending on where ozone resides, it can protect or harm life on Earth.Ground level ozone is a pollutant and health hazard. High in the statosphere it protects us from ultra-violet radiation.

The chlorine and bromine in human-produced chemicalsare depleting ozone in the stratosphere.
from: Stratospheric Ozone Depletion

"NASA data analysts were pouring through tons of satellite data.They had begun to "flag" ozone measurements over the south pole that were lower than any of NASA's computer models had predicted.

These values simply fell outside the parameters set up by NASA's scientists.

The computer in effect had been programmed to discount the data . . .(evidently unaffected by the facts themselves)Hall, Stephen S. 1992."The Hole in the Roof of the Sky" Mapping the Next Millennium Random House, New York: 127-138

Stratospheric ozone acts as a shield to protect Earth's surface from the sun's harmful ultraviolet radiation. Without this shield, we would be more susceptible to skin cancer, cataracts, and impaired immune systems.
from: NASA Facts Ozone: What is it, and why do we care about it?

Not only the Yanomami will die - all of us will die together.
When the smoke fills the breast of the sky, it will also die, just like the Yanomami.
The sky will be torn apart.

Deep Ecology
Self realization: humans are part of the nonhuman worldbiospherical egalitarianism: all members of nature deserve the same respect

Is Earth alive, or just a lively system?

Soil microbes generate soil which is the foundation of terrestrialecosystems.

Growing environmental concern

Slide show of Bolivian Rainforest.

Verticality - Altitudinal zonation:
The higher you go the colder it gets. Sierra Nevada=Snowy Mountain Range

Cultural ecology:
the study of the relationship between a cultural group and its natural environment.

Cultural adaptation:
the complex strategies human groups employ to live successfully as part of a natural system.

"Shipibo husband and wife provide food for themselves and their children from the tropical rainforest by working one hour per day. Few parents in modern societies procure food of equal quality in less time."(Amazon Economics p.xxi)

External arena:
regions of the world not yet absorbed into the modern world system.

Slow world:
people, places, and regions whose participation in transnational industry, modern telecommunications, materialistic consumption, and international news and entertainment is limited.

a society with a single cultural base and a reciprocal social economy.

What kind of social relations would develop in this isolated minisystem?

Both the ideology of community and belief in a "limited good" (scarce and finite resources) constrains individualistic selfish behavior and encourages cooperation and social cohesion as a survival strategy.

The relative isolation and marginalization of the peasant community from the wider global economy meant that most consumer durables were out of reach.

Bolivia's economy in the late seventies relied mostly on tin for its export earnings. What products used to be made of tin? Tin cans and toothpaste

When we switched to alternatives to tin, the Bolivian economy collapsed in the mid 1980's.

The Coca Trade:

Formerly isolated lowland communities became connected to the world system.

Peasant syndicates once fought for community needs such as the construction of schools, roads, and other infrastructure, fair prices for peasant crops. With the coca trade, their activism turned to protecting their commercial interests in the coca crop.

Peasants who once planted a diversity of mostly food crops for subsistence suddenly switch to growing just coca for export. Rainforest is also cleared for coca production.

Ready access to dollars and consumer durables creates profound changes in the social relations within these communities.



Review for next Tuesday's Midterm: Frequently asked questions for the first midterm

Bergman, Roland 1979 Amazon Economics: The Simplicity of Shipibo Indian Wealth Dept. of Geography at Syracuse University

Allen, Catherine J. 1988 The Hold Life Has; Coca and Cultural Identity in an Andean Community Washington D.C: Smithsonian Institution Press

Viola, Herman & Carolyn Margolis 1991 Seeds of Change Smithsonian Institution Press

Hall, Stephen S. 1992."The Hole in the Roof of the Sky" Mapping the Next Millennium Random House, New York: 127-138

Nash, June 1979 We Eat the Mines the Mines Eat Us Random House, New York