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There is much we can learn about conservation from native peoples, says Gene Anderson. While the advanced nations of the West have failed to control overfishing, deforestation, soil erosion, pollution, and a host of other environmental problems, many traditional peoples manage their natural resources quite successfully. And if some traditional peoples mismanage the environment--the irrational value some place on rhino horn, for instance, has left this species endangered--the fact remains that most have found ways to introduce sound ecological management into their daily lives. Why have they succeeded while we have failed? In Ecologies of the Heart, Gene Anderson reveals how religion and other folk beliefs help pre-industrial peoples control and protect their resources. Equally important, he offers much insight into why our own environmental policies have failed and what we can do to better manage our resources. A cultural ecologist, Gene Anderson has spent his life exploring the ways in which different groups of people manage the environment, and he has lived for years in fishing communities in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Tahiti, and British Columbia--as well as in a Mayan farmtown in south Mexico--where he has studied fisheries, farming, and forest management. He has concluded that all traditional societies that have managed resources well over time have done so in part through religion--by the use of emotionally powerful cultural symbols that reinforce particular resource management strategies. Moreover, he argues that these religious beliefs, while seeming unscientific, if not irrational, at first glance, are actually based on long observation of nature. To illustrate this insight, he includes many fascinating portraits of native life. He offers, for instance, an intriguing discussion of the Chinese belief system known as Feng-Shui (wind and water) and tells of meeting villagers in remote areas of Hong Kong's New Territories who assert that dragons live in the mountains, and that to disturb them by cutting too sharply into the rock surface would cause floods and landslides (which in fact it does). He describes the Tlingit Indians of the Pacific Northwest, who, before they strip bark from the great cedar trees, make elaborate apologies to spirits they believe live inside the trees, assuring the spirits that they take only what is necessary. And we read of the Maya of southern Mexico, who speak of the lords of the Forest and the Animals, who punish those who take more from the land or the rivers than they need. These beliefs work in part because they are based on long observation of nature, but also, and equally important, because they are incorporated into a larger cosmology, so that people have a strong emotional investment in them. And conversely, Anderson argues that our environmental programs often fail because we have not found a way to engage our emotions in conservation practices. Folk beliefs are often dismissed as irrational superstitions. Yet as Anderson shows, these beliefs do more to protect the environment than modern science does in the West. Full of insights, Ecologies of the Heart mixes anthropology with ecology and psychology, traditional myth and folklore with informed discussions of conservation efforts in industrial society, to reveal a strikingly new approach to our current environmental crises.
A meaningful homage to an extraordinary anthropologist
Across the globe, environmental questions feature more and more in today's social and political agendas. In Western countries environmental campaigns target issues at home and abroad. They have a special urgency, which draws in an astonishing range of field campaigners, from young militants to rebel aristocrats. This book examines the roots of contemporary environmental consciousness and action in terms of both popular experience and tradition. The global reach of this book reflects the character of contemporary environmentalism. It examines a geographically and thematically diverse range of case studies, including: British environmental campaigners in the Brazilian rainforest; ecocriticism and literature; the environmental movement in Kazakhstan; and medieval church iconography. The common theme linking each chapter is that environmental consciousness and activism are shaped through people's life stories, and that their memories are shaped not only through individual experience but also through myth, tradition, and collective memory. Containing a wealth of empirical source material, Environmental Consciousness will be invaluable for sociologists and historians alike. It offers a cutting-edge illustration of how narrative and oral history can illuminate our understanding of an uncertain present. Stephen Hussey is a research associate at the School of Education at the University of Cambridge. His previous publications include Childhood in Question and his next publication will be a book for the wider market entitled Headline History. Paul Thompson is research professor in sociology and director of Qualidata at the University of Essex. He is also founder of the National Life Story Collection at the British Library National Sound Archive and founder-editor of Oral History. His previous publications include The Voice of the Past, The Edwardians, and The Work of William Morris.
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Environmental issues have become increasingly prominent in local struggles, national debates, and international policies. In response, scholars are paying more attention to conventional politics and to more broadly defined relations of power and difference in the interactions between human groups and their biophysical environments. Such issues are at the heart of the relatively new interdisciplinary field of political ecology, forged at the intersection of political economy and cultural ecology. This volume provides a toolkit of vital concepts and a set of research models and analytic frameworks for researchers at all levels. The two opening chapters trace rich traditions of thought and practice that inform current approaches to political ecology. They point to the entangled relationship between humans, politics, economies, and environments at the dawn of the twenty-first century and address challenges that scholars face in navigating the blurring boundaries among relevant fields of enquiry. The twelve case studies that follow demonstrate ways that culture and politics serve to mediate human-environmental relationships in specific ecological and geographical contexts. Taken together, they describe uses of and conflicts over resources including land, water, soil, trees, biodiversity, money, knowledge, and information; they exemplify wide-ranging ecological settings including deserts, coasts, rainforests, high mountains, and modern cities; and they explore sites located around the world, from Canada to Tonga and cyberspace.
From the Psalms in the Bible to the sacred rivers in Hinduism, the natural world has been integral to the world's religions. John Grim and Mary Evelyn Tucker contend that today's growing environmental challenges make the relationship ever more vital. This primer explores the history of religious traditions and the environment, illustrating how religious teachings and practices both promoted and at times subverted sustainability. Subsequent chapters examine the emergence of religious ecology, as views of nature changed in religious traditions and the ecological sciences. Yet the authors argue that religion and ecology are not the province of institutions or disciplines alone. They describe four fundamental aspects of religious life: orienting, grounding, nurturing, and transforming. Readers then see how these phenomena are experienced in a Native American religion, Orthodox Christianity, Confucianism, and Hinduism. Ultimately, Grim and Tucker argue that the engagement of religious communities is necessary if humanity is to sustain itself and the planet. Students of environmental ethics, theology and ecology, world religions, and environmental studies will receive a solid grounding in the burgeoning field of religious ecology.

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