Wednesday, December 1, 2010

caribou management

National Geographic has an interesting article on blending the knowledge of traditional societies with ecological research to help save caribou populations. One of the most important contributions anthropology can make to the world is a better understanding of human/environmental interactions. More specifically, a recognition that almost all environments have a human component to them (yes, I'm on my Historical Ecology soap box again).

Traditional societies of the Arctic have been managing caribou populations for centuries, and doing so sustainably. No, caribou weren't domesticates like in Eurasia, but they have evolved in a context of human-modified environments, and with a certain level and type of human hunting. This is also true of deer in the Eastern Woodlands, or rabbits in the American Southwest. All too frequently, our environmental policies fail to recognize that the landscapes and species we are trying to "save" from humans were heavily modified and managed by humans to begin with. We can't return contingent landscapes to some ill-defined, fictitious "natural state". Recognizing and building on the human component of the environment - playing with the dialectic between people and their landscape - is far better science.

On a totally different topic: this is my 100th post!! Woo hoo!!!

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