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Keywords:

  • Environment;
  • culture;
  • conflict;
  • discourse;
  • community;
  • Asia Pacific region

ABSTRACT

Such is the ubiquity of environmentalism as a significant community experience throughout the world that most anthropologists will nowadays find themselves attending to the concerns their respondents have for the environments which surround and sustain them. In this article, we take stock of some of the issues addressed, and the achievements realized, by environmental anthropology to date. First, we emphasize that there is already a literature which stands as testament to the variety of environmental issues - water, whales and the weather, for instance - on which anthropologists have original insights to offer. Second, we argue that an important anthropological focus is on how ordinary people think and talk about their environments, especially when faced with external forces that have to be responded to in innovative and creative ways in order to be effective. It is not the view from above or below, but the view from within environments that matters most in local settings, which anthropologists have been concerned to unravel. Third, we emphasize that the Asia Pacific region constitutes an exceptionally rich field for anthropological research. Studies already carried out in places as diverse as Papua New Guinea, Tuvalu, the Marshall Islands, the Philippines, Indonesia, Chile and the Torres Strait make categorically clear that local and regional environmental concerns and conflicts are influenced by history, religion, Indigeneity, ethnicity, gender and other considerations that deserve critical anthropological enquiry. It is a crucial message that is endorsed and amplified by our fellow contributors in this special issue.