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An anthropological take on sustainable development: A comparative study of change

Publication Abstract

Kottak, Conrad. 2004. "An anthropological take on sustainable development: A comparative study of change." Human Organization, 63(4): 501-510.

Anthropologists can use longitudinal, comparative, and multiscale research to illuminate aspects of global change and development. Goals and procedures of the emerging field of sustainability science are examined here in relation to those of the linkages methodology and other multisited, historical, and transnational approaches in recent anthropology. Conclusions about the sustainability of development emerge from field studies in Arembepe, Brazil, and Ivato, Madagascar. The contrasts between Arembepe and Ivato, and the regions and nations that include them, are sharp and almost certainly irreversible. Madagascar suffers from an overdose of environmentalism, while Brazil has been dominated by developmental ism. Arembepe now has a sustainable diversified economy and cultural contacts linking its future with the dynamics of capitalist globalization. Ivato, by contrast, is in a region and nation with dramatically increasing population and diminishing natural resources but no investment stream to provide significant employment alternatives. In future years Ivato and similar farming communities may have little left of their past to sustain.

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