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A Short Sweep of the Global Situation: Environmental Crisis and the Place of Anthropology

Kitty K. Corbett

Concern about the future of the world, as well as recognition that human groups have the capacity to destroy their ways of life, is nothing new. What is new is that the intensity of degradation of the ecosystem supporting human societies has escalated to the point of emergency. Human societies have reached a point of unprecedented amplification of global structures and concomitant local economic activities that are spoiling our nest worldwide. A declaration that we are facing a global environmental crisis is not merely a cultural or idiosyncratic turn-of-the- millennium tendency to anticipate apocalyptic transformations. There is an explosion of well-substantiated scientific findings to support such an assertion. Anthropologists have an imperative to examine the evidence; employ the critical, holistic perspective that we claim for our discipline; and fashion our praxis accordingly. This paper provides a brief sweep of the "big picture" of the state of the world as the 21st century dawns, with an emphasis on the degradation of environmental resources. It is based on a presentation at the year 2000 meeting of the High Plains Society for Applied Anthropology, delivered as an introduction to the final conference session on "Futures." My intention here, as was there, is to establish a context for the papers that follow, provide a set of references for discussions and teaching, and be a stimulus to move our discussions beyond local, national, and immediate disciplinary concerns.

High Plains Applied Anthropologist No. 2, Vol. 20, Fall, 2000 pp168 – 178

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