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Environmental Anthropology Engaging Ecotopia

Environmental Anthropology Engaging Ecotopia: Bioregionalism, Permaculture, and Ecovillages

Joshua Lockyer
James R. Veteto
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 326
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  • Book Info
    Environmental Anthropology Engaging Ecotopia
    Book Description:

    In order to move global society towards a sustainable "ecotopia," solutions must be engaged in specific places and communities, and the authors here argue for re-orienting environmental anthropology from a problem-oriented towards a solutions-focused endeavor. Using case studies from around the world, the contributors-scholar-activists and activist-practitioners- examine the interrelationships between three prominent environmental social movements: bioregionalism, a worldview and political ecology that grounds environmental action and experience; permaculture, a design science for putting the bioregional vision into action; and ecovillages, the ever-dynamic settings for creating sustainable local cultures.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-880-3
    Subjects: Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Environmental Science, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-ix)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. x-x)
  5. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xviii)
    E.N. Anderson

    My father grew up on a small, struggling cotton farm in a remote part of east Texas. The farm was sold long ago, and the land is now neglected, growing back to brush and small trees. Worldwide, millions of acres of such land—fine soil, easily recultivated—are unused today, waiting for better farming regimes that can use them to advantage.

    Meanwhile, in spite of Rachel Carson’s classic (1962), the “silent spring” advances. Throughout much of rural America, pesticides and fence-tofence cultivation have virtually wiped out all forms of life other than the one or two crop species grown. No...

  6. Environmental Anthropology Engaging Ecotopia: An Introduction
    (pp. 1-32)
    Joshua Lockyer and James R. Veteto

    We are living in a utopian moment. The majority of humans are already being negatively affected by a number of coupled social and environmental crises. These conditions are created in large part by hegemony of thought and practice that ontologically separates humans from nature, rationalizes the externalization of the social and environmental costs of production and consumption, justifies extreme inequality, and sees solutions only in a continuation of the same systems that generated the problems in the first place. Together these and other problems constitute a crisis that demands imaginative responses and viable alternatives. We contend that anthropology must find...

  7. I. Bioregionalism

    • Chapter One Growing a Life-Place Politics
      (pp. 35-48)
      Peter Berg

      The most obvious conclusions sometimes disguise the most mysterious situations. Ask city dwellers where their water comes from, for instance. Most will answer with something like, “The faucet, of course. Want water? Turn the tap handle. Got another timeless puzzler you need help with?” So it seems, especially if your life has been spent mastering survival in apartment buildings. But the faucet is only the last place water was, not where it came from. Before that it was in the plumbing, and before that in the mains. It got there from a reservoir, and from an aqueduct connected to a...

    • Chapter Two On Bioregionalism and Watershed Consciousness
      (pp. 49-57)
      James J. Parsons

      There are strong indications of a reawakening of interest in the character and functioning of regions and microregions in most of the social sciences. Within geography it is a theme that is probably most congenial to those with historical or humanistic bents. Among the lay public this revival is reflected in many ways, as in the strength of the environmental movement, the resurgence of interest in local history, and the deepening attachment to place and to one’s ancestral roots.

      Recently a whole new subculture of bright, energetic, and dedicated amateurs has emerged, especially in the western United States and Canada,...

    • Chapter Three Growing an Oak: An Ethnography of Ozark Bioregionalism
      (pp. 58-75)
      Brian C. Campbell

      The Ozark region has been referred to as hills, mountains, and highlands, but it began as a plateau and was slowly and methodically weathered by precipitation to create a vertical topography. The Ozarks represent the only extensive elevated area in the United States between the Appalachian and Rocky Mountains, encompassing southern Missouri, northern Arkansas, and a small fraction of northeastern Oklahoma. Geographers distinguish the Ozarks by the general ruggedness of the landscape, a karst topography characterized by sinkholes, springs, losing streams, and caves, with a thin layer of topsoil (Rafferty 2001). The verticality of the landscape and the inferiority of...

    • Chapter Four The Adirondack Semester: An Integrated Approach to Cultivating Bioregional Knowledge and Consciousness
      (pp. 76-91)
      Steven M. Alexander and Baylor Johnson

      In academic and educational circles we often find ourselves speaking of the necessary knowledge we must equip students with. Proponents of bioregionalism also speak frequently of such essential knowledge. However, we believe such discussions fall short, as this is only half the story. In a seminal essay from 1977, Peter Berg provides the following definition and description of bioregionalism:

      The term bioregion refers both to a geographical terrain and to a “terrain of consciousness”— to a place and the ideas that have developed about how to live in that place. A bioregion can be determined initially by use of climatology,...

  8. Further Readings on Bioregionalism
    (pp. 92-92)
  9. II. Permaculture

    • Chapter Five Environmental Anthropology Engaging Permaculture: Moving Theory and Practice Toward Sustainability
      (pp. 95-112)
      James R. Veteto and Joshua Lockyer

      It’s a cool, blustery day at Earthaven, a young ecovillage settlement nestled into the eastern slopes of the southern Appalachians. Breaking through the rustle of wind in the trees are the sounds of human activity, of people building their common future together, of children at play. In the distance you can hear the Earthaven Forestry Cooperative’s portable sawmill cutting lumber from trees felled on the land. This is the sound of liberation. The Co-op’s sawmill is allowing villagers and neighbors to create shelter, freeing themselves from the clutches of banks and clear-cutting timber barons while keeping materials and money within...

    • Chapter Six Weeds or Wisdom? Permaculture in the Eye of the Beholder on Latvian Eco-Health Farms
      (pp. 113-129)
      Guntra A. Aistara

      On a tour of organic farms in Austria in 2006, one farmer proudly showed off her raised garden beds brimming with a diversity of herbs, medicinal plants, and vegetables, explaining that these were permaculture beds, whereby plants reseeded themselves, grew where they “felt best,” and worked in ecological systems with neighboring plants. Some of the Latvian organic farmers on the tour were shocked and amused, however, by this, their first encounter with permaculture, and what they described as “farming amidst weeds.” “Well, in that case I have permaculture everywhere in my farm,” muttered one farmer. Another commented that it all...

    • Chapter Seven Permaculture in the City: Ecological Habitus and the Distributed Ecovillage
      (pp. 130-145)
      Randolph Haluza-DeLay and Ron Berezan

      The wild strawberries are close enough to reach as Randy writes. He feasts on a half dozen every sentence, attracted by their succulence. He watches another bus pass, as they do every twenty minutes, and picks another handful of the tiny berries. Butterflies flit from columbines to columbines and hollyhocks. The apple tree has finally established itself after a couple years of struggle and a couple dozen plump spheres, ripe in a couple of weeks, are reachable from the sidewalk. A potato patch towers next to the saskatoon bushes. Several pumpkin blooms show brilliant yellow against the red cedar wood...

    • Chapter Eight Culture, Permaculture, and Experimental Anthropology in the Houston Foodshed
      (pp. 146-163)
      Bob Randall

      For twenty-one years beginning in 1987, I directed Urban Harvest, Inc. (UHI), and its predecessor at the Interfaith Hunger Coalition. UHI is an effort to alter agricultural and horticultural land use in Houston, the United States’ fourth largest city and sixth largest metropolitan area. Starting with no desk or telephone, an increasing number of us gradually built an organization that today has over a dozen staff, a one-million-dollar budget, a large network of volunteers, and interacts with thousands of people weekly (Urban Harvest n.d.). More importantly, it has had a significant impact on the horticultural land use and diet within...

    • Chapter Nine Putting Permaculture Ethics to Work: Commons Thinking, Progress, and Hope
      (pp. 164-179)
      Katy Fox

      This chapter builds on both my doctoral ethnographic research (2006–2008) with inhabitants of rural Romania who practice subsistence agriculture as well as research (ongoing since 2009) with people who practice permaculture in the UK. I stumbled upon permaculture after witnessing the highly destructive, structurally violent effects of modern agriculture and the European Union’s (EU) Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) on locally embedded, subsistence-based ways of living in rural Romania during my doctoral fieldwork. During this time, I lived in several villages in the Romanian Carpathian Mountains and was particularly interested in people’s life stories, work, and livelihoods before and after...

    • Chapter Ten Permaculture in Practice: Low Impact Development in Britain
      (pp. 180-194)
      Jenny Pickerill

      The principles of permaculture offer practical guidance on how to live more sustainably. Permaculture is designed to be a holistic, integrated practice that can build functioning sustainable alternatives that balance the needs of nature with the needs of humans. In Britain permaculture has been predominantly practiced as an approach to food production and gardening, eschewing many of its wider implications for the built environment, land tenure, planning, and economics. However, an emerging movement of Low Impact Developments¹ (LIDs) are broadening the way in which permaculture is practiced by applying it to all aspects of collective eco-living on a village scale....

    • Chapter Eleven In Search of Global Sustainability and Justice: How Permaculture Can Contribute to Development Policy
      (pp. 195-212)
      Aili Pyhälä

      In the past few decades, there has been a tendency among academics, politicians, and lay people to think of development and the preservation of the environment in antagonistic terms.¹ This human-nature dualism and alienation from nature has evolved to a point where, by “domesticating ourselves,” we are ever more disassociated from our local ecosystems and thus becoming rootless economic entities geared toward limitless growth (Livingston 1994; Shepard 1998).

      However, recent research shows that indefinite global economic growth is unsustainable (Jackson 2009; Simms and Johnson 2010). Each year we are consuming the earth’s living resources faster than our planet can regenerate...

  10. Further Readings on Permaculture
    (pp. 213-214)
  11. III. Ecovillages

    • Chapter Twelve From Islands to Networks: The History and Future of the Ecovillage Movement
      (pp. 217-234)
      Jonathan Dawson

      Significant shifts have been visible within the ecovillage movement worldwide over the last decade that have fundamentally transformed the identity, role, and potential impact of ecovillages moving forward. In broad terms, the journey that ecovillages have undertaken is from being relatively isolated countercultural experiments offering a profoundly alternative vision and lifestyle to the cultural mainstream to increasingly working in formal and informal alliance with the more progressive elements in today’s society. In short, ecovillages can no longer be described as standing outside of and in opposition to the mainstream.¹ The ecovillage vision, heterogeneous and disparate as it may be, is...

    • Chapter Thirteen Creating Alternative Political Ecologies through the Construction of Ecovillages and Ecovillagers in Colombia
      (pp. 235-250)
      Brian J. Burke and Beatriz Arjona

      Ecovillages are spaces and collectivities that are reinventing sustainability in its ecological, economic, communitarian, and worldview dimensions. They are experiences of life in community and in search of a more respectful relationship with the earth, others, the Other, and ourselves. Real and concrete paths for right livelihood and living well, now and in the future, they are pockets of hope. In this sense, ecovillages are laboratories for alternative political ecologies and their cultural and subjective underpinnings. They are experiments in alternative systems of relationships with the natural environment, human communities, productive processes, broader economic dynamics, and state structures. Global ecovillage...

    • Chapter Fourteen Globalizing the Ecovillage Ideal: Networks of Empowerment, Seeds of Hope
      (pp. 251-268)
      Todd LeVasseur

      From 5 February to 4 March 2000, approximately thirty-five full-time participants in residence and twenty-five part-time participants attended an ecovillage training program at the Findhorn Foundation community in Findhorn, Scotland. This five-week training program included attendees from all over the world: Japan, Australia, various European countries, Brazil, Sri Lanka, Israel, Turkey, Canada, the United States, Russia, El Salvador, Taiwan, Bangladesh, Ghana, the Philippines, and Egypt. For many people there, the training was not only a chance to learn about ecovillages, but also to make lasting international friendships.

      The Findhorn Foundation is an intentional community located in northern Scotland.¹ Their main...

    • Chapter Fifteen Academia’s Hidden Curriculum and Ecovillages as Campuses for Sustainability Education
      (pp. 269-284)
      Daniel Greenberg

      We are living in a unique time, not just in human history, but also inplanetaryhistory. From the recent war in Iraq to the war on rainforests, from global markets to global warming—it is clear we must learn to live in ways that honor all life.

      Yet we continue to dig deeper and faster into the earth’s resources. Best estimates are that humans exceeded the earth’s biocapacity sometime in the late 1970s and our global ecological footprint is now over one and a half lanets (WWF 2010: 7). How is this even possible, given we only have one...

    • Chapter Sixteen Ecovillages and Capitalism: Creating Sustainable Communities within an Unsustainable Context
      (pp. 285-300)
      Ted Baker

      In the preface to his 1999 edition ofHistory, Power, Ideology,Donald Donham laments the fact that the economic boom of the 1990s was “apparently not conducive to critical social analysis” (xi). Commenting on the consequences of this observation, he pointed to a dearth of engagement with Marxist thought in contemporary anthropological discussions. However, while discussing this phenomenon with a seasoned colleague, he was offered an answer that proved to be prophetic: “Wait until the next stock market crash” (Donham 1999: xi). The global economic crash Donham’s colleague dryly predicted occurred nearly ten years later, bringing with it a shaking...

  12. Further Readings on Ecovillages
    (pp. 301-302)
  13. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 303-307)
  14. Index
    (pp. 308-329)