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Green Options for AAA Members

Earth Day is a great opportunity to remember the green options that the American Anthropological Association offers to its members:

AAA Journals To Go Fully Digital in 2016

pub modelReaders may recall that in November 2013, the AAA Executive Board adopted a series of recommendations from the Committee for the Future of Print and Electronic Publishing that embrace new ways of producing and distributing its journals and endeavor to get the association’s publishing program on sustainable footing. One of the several changes includes member print copies becoming fully digital starting in 2016. Individual members can purchase, at cost, a print subscription to any journal published by sections that member has joined if they wish to receive the print copy.

Don’t want to wait until 2016 for your digital copies? You can help lower our ecological footprint today by opting out of receiving AAA’s print journals. 14 section journals are currently participating in this special green initiative. Receive the same great content online as you would in the print version. Contact Members Services to participate today.

Green Annual Meeting Registration

2014-AAA-Annual-Mtg-logo-Small-CMYKMore than 25% of meeting attendees last year opted for the Green Registration. Offered at a discounted rate, the green registration offsets AAA’s carbon footprint by choosing to use an e-reader formatted program, online personal scheduler and/or the AAA Annual Meeting Mobile app to navigate the conference. Thus far, more than 30% of meeting registrants have opted to go green. Meeting Registration is going on now, if you haven’t already, opt to go Green today!

The Anthropology and the Environment Section offer guidelines, called “Greening the Meeting,” to help meeting participants reduce their carbon footprint. Their suggestions include individual choices to be made about transportation, use of standard hotel services, and communications.

Is Earth Day a Nice Thing?

Today’s guest post is by the Chair of the Global Climate Change Task Force, Shirley Fiske.

A nice thing. Except for the reality.

Earth Day is a nice thing, today celebrated in the District at Union Station with a farmers market, giveaways, exhibits fromNASA, and a recycling drive, all nice things.  Seems like a pale comparison of the Earth Days of earlier years, when the entire Mall was dedicated to booths, displays and lots of gatherings.  I supposed it’s not unexpected given the maturation of the event and the politicization of the environment and polarization politically that has developed in the intervening years. 

Earth Days are a secular celebration, birthed at a time when people felt more spiritually about oneness with Mother Earth. As a public celebration, it seems to have lost steam…perhaps the complexity of American celebrating, and lack of support of the private sector in making our American personal and family celebrations viable as Big Bang events.  Or perhaps it’s because the American public has learned through formal and informal education how to relate to the earth better, moving the threshold for Earth Day to a higher level of event-making. 

Earth Day has adopted climate change as their focus, and that’s also a nice thing. There’s a “spot on” quote from a spokesman that “climate change has real consequences for real people as well as places that we love and animals.” This is something that the Task Force has written about and that most anthropologists studying climate change know already, and now it seems to be appropriated by Earth Day.

However, the part of the message that gets left out is one that anthropologists are all too familiar with.  Yes, climate change is happening now to real people, but it is hitting the poorest with the least resources the hardest, forcing long-time residents on the coasts in the Pacific NW and Alaska to relocate or lose their resources.  Compare the two coastal scenarios:  (1) Alaskan Natives are fighting tooth and nail to find any scrap of federal resources (or any resources) to help them relocate from Shismareff (as Elizabeth Marino reminds us); and farther south, the Quinault are losing glacial melt from glaciers that feed their rivers and stream, and host the return of the salmon each year. They will lose those salmon as the runs continue to dwindle under climate change projections.  Compare this to (2) the unnerving persistence of politically-entrenched legislation that buffers well-heeled residents and homeowners of beachfront property in the Outer Banks, the mid-Atlantic’s storm-prone and beautiful barrier islands.  They enjoy the unique historical and political artifact of legislation that provides publicly supported coastal flood insurance, a dinosaur from the pre-climate change era, perhaps the only public insurance targeted to such a vulnerable geographic area.   Under conditions of climate change, where are coastlines will be increasingly battered by storms and rising tides, how come entire regions get support while others don’t?  where’s the environmental and social justice?  Too cynical or an uncomfortable reality?

A Look at Our Earth on Earth Day

Earth Day 2012 – Jersey from the Acela - By Shirley Fiske

Today’s guest post is by the Chair of the Global Climate Change Task Force, Shirley Fiske.

Earth Day was on Sunday – not sure how you or your community observed it, but it seemed to be fairly low key from my perspective in NYC and Washington, D.C.  In New York City and there was food art off the High Line and giant puppet impersonators in Bryant Park, their outfits made of Styrofoam food containers; in Washington, D.C. it was a rather desultory Earth Day with rain and a small group of people huddled on the Mall, although Rev. Jesse L. Jackson was there in solidarity.

However, a childhood friend from L.A. sent me an article from the L.A. Times that was a bright spot, and you might want to check it out:

NASA has redesigned and enhanced their Global Climate Change website, providing aerial photos of deforestation and clearing in Brazil.  You can find them in a photo gallery called “State of Flux.”  As the article describes, there are examples of deforestation in Bolivia, urban growth in Saudi Arabia, and the creeping sprawl of Las Vegas.  (Earth Day 2012: A new look at the human footprint on Mother Earth, by Rene Lynch).  The new website provides remarkable images and “information-rich captions” to interpret the changes in land use.  While the article mistakenly ascribes the changes to population growth (it is only an intervening variable, not the causative factor), it is a valuable reminder of the important role that anthropologists have played from the beginning in understanding the human dimensions of climate change; and the importance of re-orienting the focus in climate modeling from “land cover” to “land use change.”  This was one of the early lessons from social sciences, and specifically from people like Emilio Moran, an anthropologist of course, and Diana Liverman, who is a cultural geographer.  The revised website from NASA may be one of the best efforts from federal agencies in the spirit of Earth Day 2012.

What is Earth Day Now?

This special Earth Day post is by the Chair of the AAA Task Force of Global Climate Change, Shirley Fiske.

The annual tradition of honoring Planet Earth is coming up again on April 22nd.  Even though the founders of Earth Day claim international reach and support, it seems to me its essence is quintessentially American.  Earth Day as a custom embodies the Western world view of the environment as the “other.”  On Earth Day we tend to objectify and celebrate our Environment Earth and do green things for a day, like recycling.  One of you (us anthropologists) out there has probably done a study of it Earth Day in its cultural context.

Knowing that I was going to do a blog spot on Earth Day for the AAA, I found myself musing about what Earth Day means to us with my friend Fani – also an anthropologist.  Nowadays musing over coffee really means Skyping, because she is in Georgia.  But we mused nonetheless.

We discovered that neither of us has ever been to an Earth Day event, even though they are ubiquitous over the years.  I worked for the federal government, and every single agency has special events and activities devoted to Earth Day – of course in concert with their mission, whether it’s housing or clean oceans.  Why haven’t we been to any Earth Day celebrations and how broad is that experience?

After all, Earth Day will be celebrating its 42nd anniversary this year, the first one being April 22, 1970.  On its web site, Earth Day organizers link the event to the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970.  In fact the 1970’s were marked by bipartisan support for far-reaching environmental laws, in part due to Rachel Carson’s book The Silent Spring but also growing awareness of human’s impact on our streams, rivers, and air. 1970 marked the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  A whole raft of environmental management laws were passed in the 1970s.  The National Environmental Policy Act was passed in 1969, the Clean Air Act in 1970, the Coastal Zone Management Act and the original Clean Water Act in 1972, the Endangered Species Act in 1973, the Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act 1976, and 1976 the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act for solid waste management.

Arguably the 1970s were the last time we were able to agree as a civic society and body politic on the importance of the environment in multifaceted and sweeping way.  Certainly the attempt to deal with climate change policy—another opportunity to affect sweeping environmental changes—ended in a dismal failure (but how that happened in the topic of my next blog).

Why haven’t we been engaged?  My friend Fani opined that she never felt motivated to go to Earth Day events.  She grew up absorbing all this stuff.  She and her progressive parents were already “there” living in an earth-friendly way.  I grew up in a conservation-minded household in California where water was more valuable than gold and all God’s creatures had a place in our homestead ecology.

So we mused about whether Earth Day has been effective and reaches out to people who don’t ordinarily think about things like renewable fuels, waste, wastewater, and solid waste disposal. We suspect that it does reach people at some level – it works as environmental education, in a way, especially for children in schools where teachers can package Earth Day with other earth science topics and get kids outside to experience Earth.  There are more kids nowadays that don’t get outside than ever before – that don’t experience the environment.  The “no child left inside” movement is evidence of this.

Perhaps, we thought, it’s a generational thing – and that now there’s a generation of people who grew up with it.  Is it still relevant now?  Do we need a wholly different concept to re-direct peoples’ attention to the complex of phenomena that cause climate change?  As the Chair of the newly formed AAA Task Force on Global Climate Change, I am constantly musing with friends and task force members about the phenomenon of climate change and all its human dimensions and impacts.  It is the next environmental and humanitarian crisis, it’s not limited to the U.S., and it’s happening now across the globe.   Earth Day came from a time in our social history when we had bipartisan support and social momentum for widespread environmental change within the U.S..  We are now at a different point in our social history with highly polarized views on climate change and the environment.  We need now a fundamentally different way of thinking about ourselves as part of the environment rather than the environment being “out there” where we can “fix” the problems with technology.  It is fundamentally more complex than the problems of the 1970s, which could be regulated in (for then) typical top-down, command and control regulatory policy. New ways of envisioning ourselves as part of the climate machinery are needed for the future.   I invite you to follow and comment on these blog postings surrounding this Earth Day.

Earth Day Roundup

On this Earth Day, we’re celebrating anthropologists!  Many anthropologists have been newsmakers lately, so here is a media round up to add to your weekend read:

An article of interest to be featured this Sunday, April 24th in the New York Times Magazine, Obama’s Young Mother Abroad.

And, no Earth Day would be complete without a few ideas of how you could celebrate the earth’s special day. With the assistance of the Anthropology and Environment Section, here are a few things you can do to celebrate Earth Day!

  • Make tonight a movie night! Pick up an eco-flick to watch with your family and friends. Need some film ideas? Click here.
  • Pick 5 for Your Environment – An EPA challenge to take five simple steps to make changes where you live.
  • Eat locally grown foods! Anthropology students at Arkansas Tech University are serving up locally produced foods and mapping the local, sustainable  foodshed.

Anthropologists have amply documented that meaningful lives are lived on low-energy budgets.
-Thomas Love (Linfield College)

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