Natural science disciplines ranging from climatology to oceanography and from geophysics to biogeography have been involved in research on climate change and its implications for sustainability, but over the past few decades anthropologists have examined these same issues from a rather different perspective. Even earlier, physical anthropologists and archaeologists had begun examining the role of primarily natural climate change in the bio-cultural evolution of humans in Africa and their subsequent dispersal to Eurasia, Australia, and the Americas. Climate change appears to have played a prominent role in the formation of various civilizations, the occupation or abandonment of different regions over time, and the collapse of major civilizations and indigenous societies.
This brief focuses on the recent work of sociocultural anthropologists on anthropogenic climate change, a phenomenon that began with the Industrial Revolution and is characterized by heavy reliance on fossil fuels and emphasis on
persistently enduring economic growth. Particularly after World War II, the global economy began to promote and rely on relentless consumption of manufactured products. This economic model has diffused from the first industrialized countries to the developing world through trade, foreign investment, aid and development programs, and its sustainability implications are not confined to anthropogenic climate change….
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