Daily Archives: May 21, 2016

Humans and Other Animals: Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Human-Animal Interactions

Humans and Other Animals is about the myriad and evolving ways in which humans and animals interact, the divergent cultural constructions of humanity and animality found around the world, and individual experiences of other animals.

Samantha Hurn explores the work of anthropologists and scholars from related disciplines concerned with the growing field of anthrozoology. Case studies from a wide range of cultural contexts are discussed, and readers are invited to engage with a diverse range of human-animal interactions including blood sports (such as hunting, fishing and bull fighting), pet keeping and ‘petishism’, eco-tourism and wildlife conservation, working animals and animals as food. The idea of animal exploitation raised by the animal rights movements is considered, as well as the anthropological implications of changing attitudes towards animal personhood, and the rise of a posthumanist philosophy in the social sciences more generally.

Key debates surrounding these issues are raised and assessed and, in the process, readers are encouraged to consider their own attitudes towards other animals and, by extension, what it means to be human.

Food-Matters
Global Climate Change
Environment Ethics
Environment Justice

The Intimate Bond: How Animals Shaped Human History

Animals, and our ever-changing relationship with them, have left an indelible mark on human history. From the dawn of our existence, animals and humans have been constantly redefining their relationship with one another, and entire civilizations have risen and fallen upon this curious bond we share with our fellow fauna. Brian Fagan unfolds this fascinating story from the first wolf who wandered into our prehistoric ancestors’ camp and found companionship, to empires built on the backs of horses, donkeys, and camels, to the industrial age when some animals became commodities, often brutally exploited, and others became pets, nurtured and pampered, sometimes to absurd extremes.

Through an in-depth analysis of six truly transformative human-animal relationships, Fagan shows how our habits and our very way of life were considerably and irreversibly altered by our intimate bond with animals. Among other stories, Fagan explores how herding changed human behavior; how the humble donkey helped launch the process of globalization; and how the horse carried a hearty band of nomads across the world and toppled the emperor of China.

With characteristic care and penetrating insight, Fagan reveals the profound influence that animals have exercised on human history and how, in fact, they often drove it.

Food-Matters
Global Climate Change
Environment Ethics
Environment Justice

Animals and Society: An Introduction to Human-Animal Studies: Margo DeMello

Considering that much of human society is structured through its interaction with non-human animals, and since human society relies heavily on the exploitation of animals to serve human needs, human–animal studies has become a rapidly expanding field of research, featuring a number of distinct positions, perspectives, and theories that require nuanced explanation and contextualization.

The first book to provide a full overview of human–animal studies, this volume focuses on the conceptual construction of animals in American culture and the way in which it reinforces and perpetuates hierarchical human relationships rooted in racism, sexism, and class privilege. Margo DeMello considers interactions between humans and animals within the family, the law, the religious and political system, and other major social institutions, and she unpacks the different identities humans fashion for themselves and for others through animals.

Essays also cover speciesism and evolutionary continuities; the role and preservation of animals in the wild; the debate over zoos and the use of animals in sports; domestication; agricultural practices such as factory farming; vivisection; animal cruelty; animal activism; the representation of animals in literature and film; and animal ethics. Sidebars highlight contemporary controversies and issues, with recommendations for additional reading, educational films, and related websites. DeMello concludes with an analysis of major philosophical positions on human social policy and the future of human–animal relations.

Food-Matters
Global Climate Change
Environment Ethics
Environment Justice

The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human: Jonathan Gottschall

“A jaunty, insightful new book . . . [that] draws from disparate corners of history and science to celebrate our compulsion to storify everything around us.”
New York Times

Humans live in landscapes of make-believe. We spin fantasies. We devour novels, films, and plays. Even sporting events and criminal trials unfold as narratives. Yet the world of story has long remained an undiscovered and unmapped country. Now Jonathan Gottschall offers the first unified theory of storytelling. He argues that stories help us navigate life’s complex social problems–just as flight simulators prepare pilots for difficult situations. Storytelling has evolved, like other behaviors, to ensure our survival. Drawing on the latest research in neuroscience, psychology, and evolutionary biology, Gottschall tells us what it means to be a storytelling animal and explains how stories can change the world for the better. We know we are master shapers of story. The Storytelling Animal finally reveals how stories shape us.

“This is a quite wonderful book. It grips the reader with both stories and stories about the telling of stories, then pulls it all together to explain why storytelling is a fundamental human instinct.”
–Edward O. Wilson

Global Climate Change
Environment Ethics
Environment Justice

The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values: Sam Harris

Sam Harris’s first book, The End of Faith, ignited a worldwide debate about the validity of religion. In the aftermath, Harris discovered that most people—from religious fundamentalists to non-believing scientists—agree on one point: science has nothing to say on the subject of human values. Indeed, our failure to address questions of meaning and morality through science has now become the primary justification for religious faith.

In this highly controversial book, Sam Harris seeks to link morality to the rest of human knowledge. Defining morality in terms of human and animal well-being, Harris argues that science can do more than tell how we are; it can, in principle, tell us how we ought to be. In his view, moral relativism is simply false—and comes at an increasing cost to humanity. And the intrusions of religion into the sphere of human values can be finally repelled: for just as there is no such thing as Christian physics or Muslim algebra, there can be no Christian or Muslim morality. Using his expertise in philosophy and neuroscience, along with his experience on the front lines of our “culture wars,” Harris delivers a game-changing book about the future of science and about the real basis of human cooperation.

Global Climate Change
Environment Ethics
Environment Justice

Holocene shifts in the assembly of plant and animal communities implicate human impacts

Understanding how ecological communities are organized and how they change through time is critical to predicting the effects of climate change1. Recent work documenting the co-occurrence structure of modern communities found that most significant species pairs co-occur less frequently than would be expected by chance2, 3. However, little is known about how co-occurrence structure changes through time. Here we evaluate changes in plant and animal community organization over geological time by quantifying the co-occurrence structure of 359,896 unique taxon pairs in 80 assemblages spanning the past 300 million years. Co-occurrences of most taxon pairs were statistically random, but a significant fraction were spatially aggregated or segregated. Aggregated pairs dominated from the Carboniferous period (307 million years ago) to the early Holocene epoch (11,700 years before present), when there was a pronounced shift to more segregated pairs, a trend that continues in modern assemblages. The shift began during the Holocene and coincided with increasing human population size4, 5 and the spread of agriculture in North America6, 7. Before the shift, an average of 64% of significant pairs were aggregated; after the shift, the average dropped to 37%. The organization of modern and late Holocene plant and animal assemblages differs fundamentally from that of assemblages over the past 300 million years that predate the large-scale impacts of humans. Our results suggest that the rules governing the assembly of communities have recently been changed by human activity.

….(read more).

Food-Matters
Global Climate Change
Environment Ethics
Environment Justice

Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic: David Quammen

A New York Times Notable Book of the Year, a Scientific American Best Book of the Year, and a Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Ebola, SARS, Hendra, AIDS, and countless other deadly viruses all have one thing in common: the bugs that transmit these diseases all originate in wild animals and pass to humans by a process called spillover. In this gripping account, David Quammen takes the reader along on this astonishing quest to learn how, where from, and why these diseases emerge and asks the terrifying question: What might the next big one be?

Global Climate Change
Environment Ethics
Environment Justice
Public Health

Farmers of Forty Centuries: Organic Farming in China, Korea, and Japan: F. H. King

For more than 40,000 years, Asian farmers worked the same fields repeatedly without sapping the land’s fertility and without applying artificial fertilizer! How they accomplished this miraculous feat is described by author Franklin Hiram King, a former official of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. King traveled to Asia in the early 1900s to learn how farmers in China, Korea, and Japan were able to achieve successful harvests century after century without exhausting the soil — one of their most valuable natural resources. This book is the result of his extraordinary mission.

A fascinating study of waste-free methods of cultivation, this work reveals the secrets of ancient farming methods and, at the same time, chronicles the travels and observations of a remarkable man. A well-trained observer who studied the actual conditions of life among agricultural peoples, King provides intriguing glimpses of Japan, China, Manchuria, and Korea; customs of the common people; the utilization of waste; methods of irrigation, reforestation, and land reclamation; the cultivation of rice, silk, and tea; and related topics.
Enhanced with more than 240 illustrations (most of them photographs), this book represents an invaluable resource for organic gardeners, farmer, and conservationists. It remains “one of the richest sources of information about peasant agriculture [and] one of the pioneer books on organic farming.” — The LastWhole Earth Catalog.

Food-Matters
Global Climate Change
Environment Ethics
Environment Justice

Harvard Alumni for Agriculture | Connecting people, ideas, and opportunities in agriculture, food, and bio-products within the Harvard alumni community

Who We Are

Harvard Alumni for Agriculture (Harvard Ag) is a non-partisan shared interest group dedicated to connecting people, opportunities, and ideas in agriculture, food, and bio-product career fields within Harvard’s alumni community. Drawing from Harvard’s undergraduate, graduate, and professional school alumni communities, our membership includes over 300 professionals worldwide representing diverse professional realms of food and agriculture, including asset management, multinational corporations, startups, social enterprise, government, academia, philanthropy, and journalism.

What We Do

Leveraging our global network, Harvard Ag’s programming focuses on:

  • Facilitating alumni engagement by organizing professional networking opportunities at major industry events, regional happy hours, small group dinners, and field trips
  • Bringing visibility to Harvard alumni working in agriculture by profiling our members’ professional achievements
  • Developing engaging content through bi-monthly webinars, monthly newsletter, and website
  • Connecting like-minded alumni through a professional mentoring program
  • Serving as a bridge between the alumni community and faculty, students, and staff to bolster support for agriculture, food, and bio-product-focused initiatives on campus

Get Involved

We warmly invite you to join Harvard Ag’s fast-growing, dynamic network by registering on our website. Once your membership is approved, you will have access to our alumni database, mailing list, past webinars, and monthly newsletter.

Food-Matters
Global Climate Change
Environment Ethics
Environment Justice

Our Only World: Ten Essays: Wendell Berry

Since the Second World War ended, America has performed like a gyroscope losing its balance, wobbling this way and that, unable to settle into itself and its own great promise. Wendell Berry has been a voice for that promise, a voice for reason and hope and urgent concern.

As the United States prepares to leave its long war in Afghanistan, it now must contemplate the necessity of sending troops back to Iraq, recalling General Colin Powell’s advice to President Bush: “If you break it, you own it,” as
the world’s hot spots threaten to spread over the globe with the ferocity of a war of holy terror and desperation.

The planet’s environmental problems respect no national boundaries. From soil erosion and population displacement to climate change and failed energy policies, American governing classes are paid by corporations to pretend that debate is the only democratic necessity and that solutions are capable of withstanding endless delay. Late Capitalism goes about its business of finishing off the planet. And we citizens are left with a shell of what was once proudly described as The American Dream.

In this new collection of eleven essays, Berry confronts head-on the necessity of clear thinking and direct action. Never one to ignore the present challenge, he understands that only clearly stated questions support the understanding their answers require. For more than fifty years we’ve had no better spokesman and no more eloquent advocate for the planet, for our families, and for the future of our children and ourselves.

Food-Matters
Global Climate Change
Environment Ethics
Environment Justice