I think there is a need for anthropological perspective in any issue of human existence.
It is a sad irony that the discipline (science) which is most comprehensive and fundamental (science is a human activity and the basic science of human activity is anthropology) has often seemed through its profession association to be narrowly focussed and consequently irrelevant.
Last month, Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) accompanied the chairwoman of the Disaster Recovery subcommittee, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) to another hearing, in Anchorage, about the few places in Alaska designated for US Army Corps of Engineers environmental management [sic].
The anthropologists are about to have their annual conference in Washington DC and will be exercised about the U.S. Army recruiting anthropologists (Human Terrain Systems). On the other hand, Barack Obama is hip to Margaret Mead “Obama demonstrated that he understood the reasons why America for decades (think of the Bay of Pigs invasion) has made gravely serious national security decisions based on laughably inaccurate intelligence.”
Meanwhile, none of our western Alaska or Mississippi deltas is taken seriously. “Rush Limbaugh adds Alaskan to polarizing efforts.”
The best the state of Alaska has done so far is issue an official pass to a non-existent mass disease shelter in the region’s pandemic preparedness exercise this year (flu shot clinic).
I think if Governor Palin actually had a scientific advisor to her environmental sub-cabinet especially from rural Alaska or if Landrieu and Stevens could earmark enough funding out of the millions for the Corps mission in Alaska to pay for scientific support for the Unorganized Borough [over half of Alaska’s area, 970,500 km² (374,712 square miles), an area larger than France and Germany combined], this actually would be more effective than the endless photo-op and news stories about polar bears without ice.
How do we bring attention to the need for comprehensive analysis, assessment, and action on environmental change? No one would think of building a levee without an engineer, why are we doing relocation and reconstruction of communities — in Alaska and Louisiana / Mississippi — without a human scientist / human ecologist (anthropologist)?
[This analogy would work better if I didn’t already know that someone in DC thought of managing emergencies with a horse show announcer.] At the very least we need to aggregate the existing knowledge that we know full well must be included, whether for a northern or a southern delta.
It may not be a direct plus for NOLA– my records precede Katrina and I read Voices of New Orleans. If all the people and power and money there can’t get trailers that the Feds are allowed to inspect — but I think the imaginative scale in Alaska would be easier to actually test many of these concepts and approaches.
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