ANT204H1 Lecture Notes - Sustainable Forest Management, Radical Environmentalism, Oil Sands
ANT Wednesday, February-13-13
Recap: five problematic assumptions we make about nature
Nature has a single meaning best expressed through apolitical science. Nature has a single meaning.
Some of us might clingle to the idea that there is a single meaning evolving from nature. But there
are multitude of ways to understand animals, forests, etc... We are interested not in finding the
truth of a particular meaning, we are interested in how different meanings come up against each
other in real life. How some meanings get forgotten while other persevere. How does that come
about? There are alternative ways to understanding nature. Nature has multiple meanings. Highly
folitisized. Even the scientific theory that said forest is in equilibrium, it maintains itself comes up
against other theories saying that’s not the case.
The reason why people manage nature a certain way is because they subsribe to the other theories.
As he said last time, struggles over nature are struggles over meaning abcribed to that nature.
2) The idea that pristine nature exists is problematic. Almost all nature is anthropogenic: there is
human intervention (whether burning down, pushing certain species to extinction, finding traces of
pollution in the antractica where no human sets foot). Human induced climate change. Every aspect
of the globe has human impact upon us.
Symbolically and materially: symbolic part is meaning we ascribe to nature. When we discuss
nature, we impose certain meaning. The meaning we give to an elephant, forest etc... Materially:
physical reality of nature bears impact. Reason why there are elephants in south Africa but not in its
north is because of human’s interaction with that species.
3) Nature and culture are separate: there are things humans can control and other that they can’t.
we provide meaning to nature means the way we conveive nature is tied up with human
politics/culture/history. It’s physically tied up as well.
What is natural and what’s not? Inseparability exist there. The video that said nature and culture are
separate is not possible.
What if we look at nature and culture as separate? Wilderness is that location which has no human
impact. We have to save it for the good of environment, but it’s over there separate from us. But,
we are not separate. We are biological species breathing air. Our temperature is affected by
everyone else’s body temperature.
We bear the mark of our culture on our physical bodies all the time.
If you conceive nature and culture as separate, then you can control culture. Nature becomes
subservient to nature (use pesticides, etc...). But nature is inherently uncontrollable. Our knowledge
of nature is always incompetent. You cannot manage something completely if you don’t have full
knowledge of it. You can affect strategies that take into account this chaotic nature of nature.
4) the natural represents a realm separate from human intervention and activity: rather, we have
seen starting without orange juice in the morning, the term nature masks everything that’s going on.
The idea of natural forest makes no sense: the existence of a forest next to a village at a certain time
is due to human intervention.
To claim something is natural, then you have to hide the human intervention that happened
historical. Masking all ways in which humans have managed that particular location. Masking the
fact that you have to put a wall around a park people visit.
There are multitude of possible types of nature that we can manage and protect, we can set up
natural parks to preserve. But wilderness/mountains/trees is masked as pristine, untouched.
Cronon: “the trouble with wilderness is that it expresses and repdoduces the very values it tries to
reject”. Wonderful quote showing the paradox of our life. Certain things make no sense. Attempt to
maintain certain things as natural/pristine requires untold human intervention at every level, which
is a paradox, and that is inherent in our lives.
Humans are inherently destructive of nature: to preserve pure nature, we must remove humans as
they would remove the naturness of any environment. Of course that’s wrong; people can live
sustainable (today’s readings). In the amazon, diversity increases with population diversity.
o Relocate bush men. You took large number of people who were spread over large area and
put them in a small place, they will start destroying it. Appropriate conditions are important.
You have to put humans in conditions with sufficient sources.
o Degradation: people putting pressure on the land. Long political, historical, and cultural
reasons. It wasn’t just natural.
Linking nature to identity
Ideas of nature inevitably code ideas about people. People living in nature can be seen as
primitive in need of modernization. Or indigenous, salvation of the West, people who know how
to manage the environment, they haven’t made the mistake they made in the west, they didn’t
separate themselves from nature. All of a sudden, these people are seen as rare and ....of the
People in industrialized areas: when you see spillage of oil tanker or environmental pollutions,
this eludes to the bad guys. Nice pretty forest means indigenous people living in it in harmony.
Sewage running in a river is a big corporation doing that.
These are not polluters, these are innovators, economic engineers. Without them, we wouldn’t
have what we have now. Amount of money and debate going into changing the language of the
oil sand is staggering. Change in word (from tar sand to oil sands) has profound meaning.
Video: you can see both videos talking about the same thing but in two different discourses.
First commercial: all you see is forest; oil sands industry is a small percentage of the big picture.
Second video: you only see pollutants. Meaning behind these things is important. This takes us
back to everything we’ve been talking about. Don’t take either side story for granted; recognize
where ethical entry stands. Know how power works.
If you can define nature, i.e. how people talk and describe nature, you have control over nature
and people associated with it. If you can call something widlreness, then anyone on that
wilderness is called a trespassers and you can do whatever you want with them.
National park: people inside its boundaries can be removed; this is for the good of the
environment. There are certain people included in the nature, s.a. indigenous.
If you can define nature you can define and control people
The indigenous: he will post these slides because there are quotes.
An organization paying an anthropologist to do research on a local population. They conclude
this population fits the criteria of indigenous people. But IUCN says no...why? they can’t remove
them if it’s their ancestor land. Call them ethnic minorities; less complicated. Here we have the
case that the same group people if labeled differently, it means whole different set of
circumstances for them.
Second case study: in Indonesia (or Malaysia). A Swiss .... He publicized their cause. Evocative
case study to logging company. Prince Charles became involved. 10 year old boy writing a letter
to the prime minister of Indonesia. The minister replied harshly. What happened to allow this
situation to resolve itself? They hired a consulting company from the west to help with their
image. There was something extremely hypocritical going on here: they wrote an agreement.
Key word that got them to agree was sustainable forestry. You can still benefit from timber
extraction but in a non-damaging way. But there were two problems:
o They didn’t know what sustainability meant. But to them it was a useful term to move
o Once the environmental non-gov organizations in Malaysia started this routine, they
forgot the people who objected/chained themselves to trees. Some organizations said
this started as campaign of logging of land of indigenous people but they were ignored.
Politics inherent in the indigenous attempt to regain control of their land was taken
away by the environmental organizations, their campaign and use of words.
Class activity: write three sentences saying who you are.
Next step: pick a person in the class. Write two identity markers that are similar to you and two
that are different.
Next: write 3 characteristic common to this class.
What we did here is something we do constantly. As long as we are in a social setting, we are
identifying ourselves and other people, finding similarities and differences in a conscious and
subconscious level all the time.
There are certain characteristics that we tend to use s.a. nationality, age, gender, hobbies,
religion, family member.
What is identity?
We are social beings constantly interacting with others.
“Nobody is anybody except in relation to somebody”. We are constantly evaluating who we are
and who other people are in any social setting. We learn how to affiliate in a particular way.
Again, refuting the notion that there are natural categories of identification. There are
numerous examples through the text book of this. It’s a necessary thing we need to do. It’s not
inherently good or bad, we need to be able to situate ourselves in a particular landscape. When
we meet an individual we know nothing about them, that’s a scary proposition. If we don’t know
naything about them, we don’t know how to deal with them. we look for signs/ identifiers we
look for such as clothes they wear, their behavior (calm, intimidating, ...), ethnicity, class
Within society, gender identification is important esp in certain societies.