Happy New Year! The Global Climate Change Task Force is pleased to report that the Climate-Change-Anth listserv, under the able management of Jen Schaffer at the University of Maryland, is picking up steam. If you are not yet a member, please go to https://archives.binhost.com/lists/listinfo/climate-change-anth to join. Also, a reminder that the call is now out for the 2013 AAA meeting in Chicago, and after last year’s wonderful turnout, we are hoping to see a continued increase in climate/environmental change panels. The listserv is a good place to recruit participants!
This month, we introduce another Task Force member, Carole Crumley. She is research professor at the Centre for Biodiversity at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (Uppsala, Sweden); executive director of the Integrated History and Future of People and Earth (IHOPE) project, Department of Archaeology and Ancient History at Uppsala University, Sweden; and professor emerita (2011), Department of Anthropology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Landscape, Climate and Social Memory
An early interest in the geology of the Great Lakes led Carole Crumley to think about climate at the global scale and to realize the broad and shifting spatial and temporal range of Earth environments. She comments that “as an archaeologist, I was able to connect this understanding with human history, leading to the conviction that our species has always been intimately linked with the constantly changing planet on which we live.” By the 1980s, Carole was including this insight in her introductory anthropology courses and exploring future climate change issues. She was also part of the environmental task force convened by AAA President Jane Buikstra (1989-91) that ultimately resulted in the creation of the AAA Anthropology and Environment Section.
In the mid-1990s, Carole began working with international global change programs. The International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP) was founded in 1987 with the mission of promoting collaboration among the various Earth System sciences (eg, atmospheric chemistry, glaciology, marine ecology). Again the pioneer, she was the only social scientist on several IGBP scientific committees (PAGES, which studies Earth history; DIVERSITAS, which studies biodiversity, and AIMES, which focuses on ecosystem modeling). In 2009, Crumley moved to Sweden, where IGBP has its headquarters and where several projects that explicitly integrate humans with their environments are underway.
Carole’s research has always combined evidence of human activity with environmental change. She points out that “our longstanding collaborative project in Burgundy (France) combines cultural anthropology, archaeology, palaeo-environmental studies, analyses of maps and documents, ethnography and much more; we have studied the region’s changing landscapes and societies from 1000 BCE to the present. Through these data we can approach many issues of relevance today.“ Burgundy’s long tradition of diversified farming—both for the market and for domestic production—goes back six thousand years.
Carole’s team has found that diversity is the key to sustained agro-pastoral production in this region of thin soils, rocky terrain and unpredictable climate. Burgundy’s history and ecology reveals real thresholds that, when breached, have had disastrous effects on the lives of its inhabitants. “The social memory of Burgundy’s inhabitants, as well as our own investigations, indicate that these delicate relationships are well understood,” she notes. Older farmers are familiar with false economies (reliance on too few species, widespread upland clearing), extreme weather (extended droughts followed by heavy rains) and other conditions that produced past disasters. Due to Imperial edicts that mandated monocropping, these practices spelled ruin in Roman times. Carole points out that “there are parallels today: European Union and state regulations force farmers—against their better judgment and experience—to move toward industrial agriculture and away from practices that promote diversity.” Managed by distant state authority, the biological, economic, and social diversity of huge regions is subjugated in order to feed landless urban populations, a pattern repeated in history. Her work in Sweden has made it possible to focus on the economic and social aspects of biodiversity loss by addressing the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
Carole feels that the combination of intensive fieldwork with the larger initiatives in global research and policy highlights the importance of anthropology’s multivalent and holistic approach. Anthropological fieldwork can construct a practical narrative that conveys the problems with command-and-control policies, pinpointing the issues that must be addressed if a system is to be made less vulnerable. And, says Carole, “Anthropology’s collaborative skills facilitate cooperation among scientists, practitioners, policy makers and other groups, and its theoretical breadth offers other disciplines a model for the comparison of case studies. Finally, anthropologists’ empathy for and sense of responsibility to all of humanity can interject critical values into what is too often arid discourse.”