"ANTH 199 Section 004 � 2005 Spring"
ANTH 599 Section 004 2010 Fall Robert Daniels Tuesdays 2:00 – 4:45 Alumni 308 Anthropological Perspectives on the Energy Crisis The twin problems of resource depletion (“Peak Oil”) and waste accumulation (“Global Warming”) have led many to make dire predictions: “Sustainability is incompatible with continued economic growth in rich countries…A zero-growth economy is incompatible with a debt-based monetary system.” “The challenge is not about how we introduce energy infrastructure to maintain the viability of the systems we depend upon, rather it is how we deal with the consequences of not having the energy and other resources to maintain those same systems. Appeals towards localism, transition initiatives, organic food and renewable energy production, however laudable and necessary, are totally out of scale to what is approaching.” “We stand on the cusp of one of the bleakest periods in human history when the bright lights of a civilization blink out and we will descend for decades, if not centuries, into barbarity.” “How many people will post-industrial agriculture be able to support? .... A safe estimate would be this: as many as were supported before agriculture was industrialized ... somewhat fewer than 2 billion people” “human existence is fundamentally under threat” Further, many political commentators see the oil crisis as the underlying explanation for the current geopolitical situation, e.g. Resource Wars: The New Landscape of Global Conflict, Big Oil and the Fight for the Planet, etc., etc. Anthropology is the social science that most fundamentally takes a global view, looks at the human species over the long (indeed evolutionary) scale, and has investigated the collapse of past civilizations with a comparative, multidisciplinary, cultural-ecological approach. Surely anthropological theory and research has something to contribute to these debates. This course will ask: What is the validity of the dire predictions of “Peak Oil”? What is the validity of the dire predictions of "Global Warming"? What is the validity of the resource-based explanation of current geopolitics? Can a comparative study of past civilizations help us to anticipate and prepare for the immediate future of our species? In short, of what use is anthropology (or the social sciences in general) in understanding these issues? This is a small seminar class for juniors, seniors, and graduate students: critical reading of books and many articles from websites, discussion, position papers, class presentations, and a term project of the student’s choosing.