anthro in the news 4/23/18

Bison Truck! Central San Pedro, Los Angeles, California, 2016. Credit: Joey Zanotti/Flickr

the damage humans do

Several media, including  NBC News, reported on a study of the correlation between humans and the decline of large mammal populations, expanding previous analyses from North America all the way back to the earliest humans in Africa. Over the past 125,000 years, the average size of mammals has shrunk, due to humans, not climate change, according to research on the fossil record by paleo-biologist Felisa Smith of the University of New Mexico and her team. They found that, consistently, large mammals were abundant as people arrived and spread: “For example, a striking feature of the Pleistocene was the abundance and diversity of extremely large mammals such as the mammoth, giant ground sloth, woolly rhinoceros, and saber tooth tiger on all habitable continents.” When humans arrived, the rate of extinction for big mammals rose, and the process is still going on:  “Wild mammals are in decline globally because of a lethal combination of human-mediated threats, including hunting, introduced predators and habitat modification.” The study is published in the journal Science.

who cares about the environment

An article in The Christian Science Monitor pointed to the hypocrisy of environmentalism: Concern for the environment often rises alongside people’s material wealth, yet consumption of the wealthy in turn drives environmental destruction. Thus higher income people may support environmental causes but at the same time their lifestyle works against those causes. Studies show that low-income people are also aware of environmental problems and care about the environment, but they may be less financially able to act on their concerns. Just because there’s a kind of general prevailing idea of what sustainability and preserving the environment are, does not mean that people of color, poor people are not really concerned about the environment or involved in it,” says Melissa Checker, Hagedorn Professor of Urban Studies at Queens College and a faculty member in the Ph.D. program in anthropology at the City University of New York. “There are just different ways to think about nature and caring about it. All equally valid.”

university ethics and the environment

The St. Louis Dispatch (Missouri) reported on how activist students and faculty are questioning the ethics of Washington University’s fossil fuel connections, especially endowments and investments, and putting pressure on administrators to sever those ties. According to the article, the university’s many fossil fuel connections have sparked criticism across swaths of students and faculty members supporting divestment. While many at Washington University say climate change provides a moral argument to divert money away from those industries, some tout other, additional reasons for their support of the movement:  “The corruption of research ethics is what I harp on,” said Bret Gustafson, associate professor of anthropology. He, along with others on campus, suggest that fossil fuel influences compromise the school’s official research integrity policy.

environmental injustice

The Outline (New York) carried an article about the mismanagement of human waste in the United States and practices of transferring waste from more powerful areas, like New York City, to areas that are willing to take it, for a price. The specific case discussed is a train carrying 5,000 tons (or nearly 19 days’ worth) of processed excrement from New York and New Jersey that sat for two months at a railyard in a town in Alabama, waiting for a landfill site to accept it. The article quotes Kelly Alley, Alma Holladay Professor of Anthropology at Auburn University:  “That was the result of a deal that was done between the city’s managers and Chemical Waste Management, Inc. The residents didn’t find out about it until they saw the trucks coming into town.” Alley, who has done long term research on wastewater management in India, comments that the question of what to do with the stuff we flush down the toilet is a universally vexing one. “You flush your toilet, it goes away somewhere, it’s nasty, and people don’t want to think about where it goes…In big urban centers, there’s nowhere to put this stuff. They’re going to be shipping it out.” She added, “[New York] sends it to several states — it’s not just Alabama.”

seeking beauty in China

South Korean actress Rujia Baike. Credit:

The South China Morning Post reported on the role of social media site in shaping views about cosmetic surgery. Focusing on one site, it says that over 53 per cent of SoYoung’s users were born in and after the 1990s, while the oldest members turn 28 this year. To them, cosmetic surgery is just another luxury item that they are willing to spend on. Along with increasing affluence, social media enables the sharing of “beautified” photos, and the popularity of celebrities who have plastic surgery is also influencing the views of what is acceptable, according to Jianhua Zhao, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Louisville:

“Many people, especially the younger generation, are unapologetic about their ostensible favouritism toward beauty….It has almost become accepted that beautiful people are naturally entitled to an easy life, and those who don’t take advantage of their own beauty, but resort to their talents, are incomprehensible.” For young Chinese women, South Korean actresses offer an aspirational beauty image.

remembering the Waco siege

Lex18 News (Lexington, Kentucky) interviewed Emily Craig, forensic anthropologist and Kentucky State Medical Examiner until her retirement in 2010, about her role in the siege at Waco, Texas. Craig was there on April 19, 1993, the day the siege ended. New in her role at the time, she was brought in to help identify the remains of the men, women, and children killed at the Branch Davidian compound. Craig said that it was her first mass fatality and to date, one of her toughest: “The children were lead like lambs to slaughter, they had no idea what was coming, the adults were there by their own free will.” [with audio]

forensic anthropologist a featured speaker

The Stuttgart Daily Leader (Arkansas) reported on the latest event in a local speaker series in which Thomas Holland, author and Scientific Director of the U.S. Department of Defense’s Central Identification Laboratory, gave a presentation on forensic anthropology and how it works to identify missing-in-action service men and women and other cases. In his position at the Central Identification Laboratory, the largest skeletal identification lab in the world, Holland has led forensic recoveries around the world, from Vietnam to Korea to Europe. He and his team continue to find America’s MIAs.

take that anthro degree and…

…work in business management. Guita Ranjbaran is director of operations and recruitment at Simpla, Inc., an IT consulting firm located in the greater New York City and Los Angeles areas. She plays multiple roles including operations, business development, recruiting, and public relations.  Using her understanding of diverse cultural settings, she works to build trusting relationship with clients, IT hiring managers, business teams, consultants, and third-party vendors. Ranjbaran has a B.A. in anthropology from the City College of New York and an M.A. in anthropology from the Graduate Center, City University of New York.

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