In this entry in the Cambride Encyclopeida of Anthropology Thomas Hylland Eriksen argues that the anthropology of climate change represents a new approach to globalisation, that shifts the focus towards the ecological embeddedness of human life.
Thomas Hylland Eriksen writes that climate change, largely a product of human activities, is arguably the most comprehensive and dramatic challenge facing humanity. In the first decades of this century, its implications have become a major concern in anthropology.
The first part of Eriksen's entry shows why the contribution of anthropology is important to the interdisciplinary study of, and engagement with, climate change. Anthropology teaches us that climate change has to be related to global inequality and local diversity, and must be understood as a multi-scalar phenomenon embedded in local life, but with global ramifications. Anthropology can also show why political action to mitigate or halt climate change is sluggish and often inefficient.
Tracing the origins and development of the anthropology of climate change in the late twentieth century, the entry then shows how the field has become more diverse, to include studies of resilience and adaptation, renewable energy, climate activism, as well as knowledge and discourses about climate change. While these studies are truly global by relating to a worldwide event, they retain an emphasis on local realities through ethnographic methods indicating variations in impact of and responses to climate change. They foreground that the issues having to do with climate change differ vastly across the world, from Australia to Peru, from Greenland to Mongolia. The entry ends by arguing that the anthropology of climate change represents a new approach to globalisation, one that shifts the focus from economics, culture, and politics to the ecological embeddedness of human life.
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